Some venues could be asked to close over Christmas: Swann

Some hospitality venues may be asked to close their doors over Christmas if Covid-19 cases continue to increase, the health minister has told MLAs.

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 8:14 am
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: Patrons dance at DC9 nightclub during their Lost Birthday Club dance party on June 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. Washington, D.C. lifted pandemic capacity limits for bars, nightclubs and music venues allowing for full capacity. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Robin Swann made the comments during a debate on Covid regulations, but stressed that closures were not inevitable.

It came as a meeting of Stormont ministers to discuss a range of measures to help limit the spread of Covid broke up without agreement.

Mr Swann told the Assembly: “If the current trajectory continues with regard to the increased cases we are seeing, we may once again face the possibility where venues are asked to close their doors during the Christmas season.

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PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST 30/04/2021 Enjoying a Drink at the Botanic Inn in Belfast on Friday. Shops, gyms, pubs, restaurants and cafes in Northern Ireland have begun to reopen on Friday after a four-month winter lockdown. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

“But let me be clear, it is not inevitable and I do not want to have to reintroduce further restrictions unless completely unavoidable.”

An Executive meeting to discuss Department of Health proposals to curb Covid infections will reconvene this morning.

Last night an Executive spokesperson said: “The Executive met this morning to consider a paper from the health minister.

“While the meeting was constructive and progress was made, it was agreed that more work was required and the Executive is due to meet again tomorrow morning to continue its discussions.”

The suggested measures from Mr Swann include tougher working-from-home advice and a new scoring system on Covid compliance for businesses.

The “scores on the doors” scheme, similar to those in place for food safety standards, would see the development of a “Covid score” for businesses based on an assessment of the measures they have in place and their compliance with public health regulations.

Meanwhile, a Greenisland man who protested at Stormont against restrictions on seeing his father in a care home has called for all frontline NHS staff to be subject to mandatory vaccination against Covid.

David Clarke is campaigning for better access and conditions for his father, also David, who is 75 and currently living in a care home.

At present he is only allowed to see his father for three hours a week due to Covid restrictions, which he said is not appropriate at this stage of his father’s life and in light of the fact that both of them are double vaccinated.

“I know it is very divisive but yes I am in favour of mandatory vaccinations for frontline health care staff,” he told the News Letter.

“Because if they are getting unlimited access to vulnerable elderly people who have to be locked away from their families, then yes, I do believe that they should [be vaccinated].”

He added: “I do believe in it on a mandatory basis, if you are going to be working in close contact with vulnerable elderly people. I know people say, ‘Oh that is their livelihoods’ but I am not saying it has to be done tomorrow.”

He suggested that it could be brought in for the start of February to give people who do not wish to comply time to find a new job which does not involve close contact with vulnerable elderly people.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it, where we can’t see our family because they are vulnerable but unvaccinated staff can have access to them for 40 hours a week.

“Initially I think care homes are one of the most vulnerable sectors and then I think it should also apply to hospitals and GP surgeries. It would enable them to open up in a more meaningful way to see patients.”

He was at a protest at Stormont on Saturday which aimed to raise awareness of ongoing “draconian” restrictions for care home residents and limited access to their families and the outside world compared to the rest of society.

His father, who has advanced dementia, has just returned to his care home from hospital.

But under public health rules his father must isolate for 14 days because he has been in a hospital setting, his son told ‘Good Morning Ulster’.

“He is doubly vaccinated and has tested negative but is still confined to his room for the next two weeks,” Mr Clarke added.

New figures released yesterday show there have been a further three deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland. Another 1,469 positive cases of the virus were also notified by the Department of Health.

Yesterday morning there were 378 Covid-positive patients in hospital, with 36 in intensive care.