Northern Ireland’s devolved government has again extended its “circuit breaker” lockdown, substantially increasing restrictions.
Unlicensed premises such as cafés are allowed to reopen from today with an 8pm curfew, and pubs and bars allowed to sell sealed-off sales.
However, these businesses will have to close again next Friday (27th) , and other areas which were due to reopen on 27 November will have to remain closed, meaning many businesses will have been closed eight weeks by the time reopening is permitted.
The hospitality sector along with other sectors have already been closed for five weeks.
Under the new restrictions, all hospitality must close except for accommodation for essential travel, as well as takeaway and delivery, and food and drink in motorway services, airports and harbour terminals.
The Executive took the decision after modelling indicated it offered a greater likelihood of avoiding further restrictions before Christmas.
The measures agreed by the Executive are:
- Closure of all retail except essential retail that was permitted to stay open in March.
- Closure of close contact services
- Closure of all hospitality (except for accommodation for essential travel). Takeaway and delivery, and food and drink in motorway services, airports and harbour terminals remain open
- Closure of all leisure and entertainment, including all soft play areas, gyms and swimming pools
- Sporting events only permitted for elite sport and elite sport will take place behind closed doors
First minister Arlene Foster said: “The Executive has been presented today with the sobering prospect of our hospitals becoming overwhelmed within weeks.
“It is clear that a tough, carefully timed, intervention is required to give us the best chance to have a safe and happy Christmas and further into the new year period.
“The Executive has taken the decision to put in place a short, sharp circuit-breaker from Friday 27 November to reset and drive down infection rates right across Northern Ireland.
“This is not the position we had hoped to be in as the current phase of restrictions comes towards an end. The R rate has unfortunately not dropped as far, or for as long, as had been estimated. We have taken some time today to look at the reasons for this. Sadly it is clear that a careless minority have significantly undermined the sacrifices of the many.
“So I want to take this opportunity to say to those who feel it’s acceptable to flout public health advice, think again.
“We all need to work together to save our hospitals, to save Christmas, to save lives.”
Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director, said:“Companies understand that our health system cannot function properly without a significant reduction in transmission. Yet this latest announcement comes as a bitter blow for businesses across Northern Ireland who have invested heavily to keep their staff and customers safe.
“With the all-important festive trading period already upon us, businesses, particularly those in the hardest hit sectors such as hospitality, retail and tourism have been told continuously that they must endure short-term pain for long-term gain. But yet once again they face this start-stop lockdown approach which is playing havoc with jobs and livelihoods.
“Any support for this latest lockdown policy would require presentation of robust evidence to show that closing more businesses will reduce the level of transmission. Many companies may well need further support if they are to keep their heads above water.”