Business groups welcome unwinding of Covid-19 restrictions

Checking Covid passports in Belfast CIty Centre Picture Mal McCann.

BUSINESS groups have welcomed moves to significantly scale back restrictions across hospitality settings in the north.

The legal requirement for licensed premises to demand a vaccine passport from customers will end from noon on Wednesday (January 26), with nightclubs reopening on the same date.

Dancing and indoor standing events can also resume from next Wednesday.

The vaccine passport system will remain in place for nightclubs and partially-seated events with more than 500 people present.

Mandatory table service will also end from noon today (Friday) for licensed premises, with the rule of six also scrapped.

Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said the restrictions had been “crippling” for businesses in the trade.

“This is hopefully the beginning of the end for restrictions on hospitality businesses.

“The planned reopening of nightclubs is also very welcome, but as they were forced to close on the same Omicron modelling there is no reason why they cannot be opened immediately without Covid passes.”

He said the removal of the remaining Covid restrictions “must now be a priority as they continue to impact on trading conditions”.

A survey of 1,000 members published earlier this week by the trade body reflected what Hospitality Ulster described as ‘the worst week in living memory' for the industry.

“The news today will herald a transition for the hospitality sector as it considers the next steps required to build back from lost trade and begins to recover from the last two years of restrictions and closures. Make no mistake, we have a massive task ahead”.

The chief executive of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Paul Clancy, said the lifting of the restriction signals a return to normality for the economy.

“It’s important that, where necessary however, the executive continues to support businesses which are struggling through no fault of their own,” he said.

“The speedy roll out of schemes like the Omicron Hospitality Payment is vital and we would encourage government departments to work to ensure they are delivered as quickly as possible.

The changes have also been welcomed by Glyn Roberts of Retail NI.

But the chief executive, who represents the independent retail sectors, said the executive must now set out “a clear plan” for public and private sector staff to return to offices and workplaces.

“This will be a significant challenge and will require extensive planning but will be important to boost footfall for our high streets, reopening our economy and return our society to near as normal,” he claimed.

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