Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Coronavirus: Reaction to the latest NI Covid-19 restrictions

Coronavirus: Reaction to the latest NI Covid-19 restrictions
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  • Coronavirus pandemic

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Schools are to close for two weeks and restaurants will be limited to takeaway-only as part of measures to be announced by the Northern Ireland Executive on Wednesday.

Ministers met late on Tuesday to discuss plans to tackle Covid-19.

It comes amid warnings that a sharp rise in cases could place hospitals under extreme pressure.

  • Schools to close and tight new hospitality rules

But there are concerns about the impact of tighter restrictions on education, the economy and other health services.

First Minister Arlene Foster

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The first minister said the executive would provide financial support to those affected by the latest measures “as best we can”.

In a social media post on Tuesday evening during an adjournment of the executive, she said it was “critical” that schools did not face a “long-term” closure.

The DUP leader said this would affect young people’s life chances.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill

The Sinn Fein vice president said the executive would “do everything we possibly can to make sure there are protections in place”.

She said this would be for “businesses, workers and families”.

Ms O’Neill added that ministers had given the new restrictions “painstaking consideration”.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster

“This is now endgame for many in the hospitality industry,” Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster told BBC News NI.

“We understand that obviously health comes first, but I think it’s fair to say the hospitality industry has done more than any other industry to step up with measures.

“We have a health crisis, we accept that, but we also now have a hospitality crisis,” he continued.

“What happens in four weeks if the rate [of infection] hasn’t come down?”

Michael Allen, principal of Lisneal College

Londonderry school principal Michael Allen said he was “deflated” by the news that schools would have to close for two weeks.

He told BBC Radio Foyle schools had worked hard to ensure safety measures were in place for pupils and staff.

“One thing we can do when they are in schools is guarantee that young people are social distancing, hand sanitising and wearing face coverings.

“One of my main worries is that when pupils go out the door for those two weeks that same level of guarantee that all protocols will be adhered to is no longer there.”

Gerard Keenan, owner of Dan’s Bar in west Belfast

“To be honest I think we’re done,” Dan’s Bar owner Gerard Keenan told BBC News NI.

“In a couple of weeks or so if it hasn’t changed I think we’ve no choice, we’ll have to sell our bar, I don’t really want to do this anymore.”

Mr Keenan said his business had been praised by Belfast City Council and police who had inspected safety measures introduced since pubs were allowed to reopen.

“I thought we were doing an excellent job in our pub,” he said, adding that the latest measures have “cut the feet from beneath us”.

Claire Hanna, SDLP MP

SDLP MP Claire Hanna said her party colleague and Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon had been clear that a “serious intervention to address the rocketing numbers” of coronavirus cases in NI was needed.

Ms Hanna said the “devil will be in the detail” and the public need clear instructions about how the restrictions will affect their lives.

“What does this mean for me if I am a hairdresser, what does this mean for me if I am a parent, what does this mean for me if I need childcare,” she cited as questions people will be asking.

“We all hope that it is enough.”

Selina Horshi, managing director of White Horse Hotel in Campsie

County Londonderry hotel owner Selina Horshie said her business had to borrow to pay bills “month on month” during the initial lockdown and fears the latest measures will hit the industry hard.

With the Derry and Strabane District Council area facing tighter measures in recent weeks, including on travel advice, she said occupancy levels are down and her business misses out on many of the financial support packages.

“We really need to know exactly what the rules are because we’re always having to do things incredibly quickly,” she told Good Morning Ulster.

“We need communication about exactly which parts of the sector are going to be helped and which ones aren’t.

Kelvin Collins, owner of Ben Madigan’s Bar & Kitchen in Belfast

North Belfast pub owner Kelvin Collins said it is “crunch time number two” for his business.

“It’s a hard time for everybody,” he explained, adding that he voluntarily closed before the first lockdown “because we were worried about customers”.

Mr Collins said he had “no choice but to try” survive the latest measures having put “blood, sweat and tears” into building up the business.

“We’re coming into Christmas, it’s normally a time of year where we build reserves for January, February and March of next year, there are a lot of businesses that are closing down now that might not reopen again.”

Gavan McAlinden, Royal College of Surgeons

Orthopaedic Surgeon Gavan McAlinden said if the latest measures limit the spread of Covid-19 it will mean fewer health workers need to take time off work.

He said people need to remember they could spread the virus to people working on the frontline.

“It could be me, it could be a nurse, it could be an anaesthetist that they pass Covid onto and we hear the effect of that on staff and that clusters of staff have to remain out of the workplace and are not available,” he outlined.

Mr McAlinden said he placed his “faith and confidence” in the chief medical officer and the chief scientific advisor.

Michael Deane, restaurant owner and chef

Belfast restaurant owner Michael Deane said his sector is “being treated like criminals” and becoming a “scapegoat for everybody else”.

“We haven’t seen the data that it was spreading in restaurants,” he explained, adding that “consumer confidence is already on the floor”.

However, the businessman said he believes “a full lockdown is needed” to change behaviours and argued measures should not be “half-hearted”.

“Children are going to meet on the street corners, students are still going to go to off-licences up to eight o’clock, then they are going to order carry-outs from local restaurants,” he continued.

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