Northern Ireland news

No changes to Covid restrictions before October 14, Executive confirms, amid warning hospitality sector 'left out in the cold'

First Minister Paul Givan has confirmed there will be no changes to Covid-19 restrictions in the north until next month. Picture by Liam McBurney
Paul Ainsworth

CURRENT Covid-19 restrictions will not be eased before October 14, ministers have agreed at a meeting of the Stormont Executive.

Thursday's meeting at Parliament Buildings followed a recommendation from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor that no changes be made yet to the restrictions, which include enforcing social distancing at indoor locations such as shops, restaurants and bars, and the continued shuttering of nightclubs.

Other remaining restrictions include the mandatory wearing of face coverings in retail locations and on public transport.

As yesterday's meeting concluded, first minister Paul Givan confirmed the current restrictions would remain for now, but said people could expect October 14 to be a "significant date" for changes to the rules.

"We have obviously made huge progress as an Executive over the past number of months. We have had over 38 relaxations and we are able to do a lot of things we weren't able to do previously, and we now are left with a remaining nine areas that need to be considered," Mr Givan said.

"I am pleased that today, on a number of those, we were able to make progress and we're looking towards October 14 as a significant date, subject to a final decision being made on October 7."

Executive ministers are now set to hold a special meeting at the start of next week, which will focus on social distancing rules and will include discussion on vaccine certification.

"In respect of social distancing, that is something which for certain sectors there is a critical decision with the ending of the furlough scheme, and that has been well documented, but we are going to meet as an Executive on Monday to talk about the social distancing aspects and the particular sectors that that is very much relevant to," Mr Givan added.

However, a spokesperson for the body representing the north's hospitality sector said Thursday's decision left them "hugely disappointed"..

Colin Neill, the chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: "It is totally unacceptable that, once again, the hospitality sector has been left out in the cold with no plan, no dates, and no action. For months we have been waiting to move forward, yet the industry is still in a holding pattern which is having a big impact on businesses and livelihoods. Our question to the Executive is - if not now, when will they provide us with a practical roadmap and timescale out of the punitive restrictions that the sector is working under?"

 

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