NI Executive set to give green-light to opening pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels indoors
The Northern Ireland Executive is expected to rubberstamp the indoor reopening on Monday of pubs, restaurants, hotels, cafes, and visitor attractions when it meets later today.
Ministers are also expected to agree on a series of quarantine-free holiday destinations and adopt the so-called ‘green list’ of countries already announced by the UK government.
Last week, a spokesperson for the Executive Office said the decision to reopen licensed and unlicensed premises indoors – with certain mitigations in place – would be ratified “provided the data remains generally positive”.
The latest data from the Department of Health shows that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus has now fallen to the lowest level since August, while the number of people testing positive each day has continued to decline.
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said the “countdown clock” to reopening continues.
“We are expecting the Executive to rubberstamp this because Northern Ireland now has fewer cases per head of population than England or Scotland,” he said.
“The data is there and all the other nations are already open to some degree, so as far as we are concerned the countdown clock is continuing to reopen on Monday.
“If they don’t ratify this there will be huge questions to answer.”
The reopening of indoor hospitality, if it is agreed as expected by the Executive later today, will happen on Monday with a series of mitigations in place. Table service will be mandatory, with a maximum of six people – not including children – permitted to sit together.
There is to be no dancing, live music, gaming machines or pool tables, and social distancing of one metre is required between tables.
Businesses will also be required to take contact details from customers for contact tracing purposes.
Mr Neill said: “We welcomed the move to a rule of six – six people from six households – which makes us viable if not profitable.
“But there will still be businesses which are not viable within these restrictions so whilst Monday is a huge landmark day for us, it is the beginning of the journey to freedom when all restrictions are removed.”
The latest figures show 107 positive tests in the last 24 hours, for a weekly total of 614 – down from 644 the week before. There were no deaths recorded in the last 24-hour period. The number of people in hospital with coronavirus stood at 37 yesterday – the lowest since August 17.