Northern Ireland news

Newcastle business owners say visitors welcome but they must 'respect' rules amid Covid-19 outbreak

Bryansford business woman, Audrey Byrne has owned Thumbelina traditional toy shop in Newcastle, Co Down for 15 years. Picture: Hugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

BUSINESS owners in a Co Down seaside town at the centre of a Covid-19 outbreak have insisted that visitors are still welcome but appealed for them to "respect" social distancing rules.

A number of shops in Newcastle have closed after staff members tested positive for the virus.

On Wednesday, Kent Amusements said it had been "notified that some of our staff members have tested positive for Covid 19" and closed "until further notice".

On the same day The Bon Bon confectionary shop on the main street also closed, revealing one member of staff had tested positive.

Earlier this week, Barbican SuperValu revealed a "handful of colleagues" had tested positive, with the store closing for a deep clean.

Annemarie O'Higgins and Cathy McNulty who own Froth Bistro in Newcastle, Co Down. Picture: Hugh Russell

Audrey Byrne, who has owned Thumbelina traditional toy shop in the town for 15 years, said Newcastle is a "tourist town and we want the business but we have to keep everyone safe".

"We have noticed a huge increase in business over the last three/four weeks and it is not unexpected that we are going to have these pockets all over Northern Ireland," the Bryansford businesswoman said.

"I have a small traditional toy shop and am adhering to everything. We have such tremendous support from our locals, so we have got to think of them as well and their well-being.

"We should keep going and try not to think too negative and get too frightened. It's the fear I want to avoid.

"I want people to come.We want them to respect and keep the rules. This is just something we have to learn to live with but we can't be careless".

Newcastle scene Picture by Hugh Russell.

Cathy McNulty, co-owner of Froth Bistro, said it was a worrying time, with traders doing all they can to keep everyone safe.

"If they enforce a local lockdown we don't know what is going to happen our business but safety of people is paramount," she said.

She highlighted the problem of "crowd control" outdoors, suggesting a loud speaker system on the streets to remind people to socially distance.

"We love the tourists coming.

"We are asking people to wear masks, distance, remember to sanitise your hands and if everybody is just mindful and keeps their distance and respects other people and is patient, we can work together to keep each other safe."

Patrick McPoland, who has owned the restaurant at Golf Links House in Newcastle for the past two decades, said the outbreak in the town had "raised awareness".

"If it means another lockdown it wouldn't bother me. My priority is my health and my family's health," he said.

"It could be a setback. I am not too worried because I know the take away is going pick up again."

Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said the party has requested the Public Health Agency to set up a mobile testing centre in the area.

He said "many visitors" had been "too relaxed" in relation to social distancing and face masks and encouraged the public to download the StopCOVID NI app and follow all guidelines.

"The last thing that we want is a localised lockdown in a popular tourism destination such as Newcastle, this would be hugely damaging to the local family run businesses in the town, many of who have done tremendous work in preparing for safely reopening," he said.

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