New Covid rules make things difficult but it’s not all doom and gloom says NI restaurant

New measures to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 came into effect today in Northern Ireland.

Monday, 27th December 2021, 5:53 pm
Updated Monday, 27th December 2021, 8:50 pm
Covid-19 passports for licensed premises came into force on December 13. As of December 27 a maximum of six people can sit at the same table. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The new rules, agreed by Executive parties last week, mean a maximum of six people can be seated together in a bar or restaurant, with table service only permitted.

One Belfast restaurant said that although it has been difficult time for the hospitality industry, “it’s not all doom and gloom”.

Aveen Moreland, operations manager at Cyprus Avenue restaurant in east Belfast, spoke to the News Letter yesterday afternoon.

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At that time she said they had done 200 covers for lunch, 50 for breakfast and were on track to hit 130 for dinner.

She said: “We’re just as busy as what we would be normally after Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

“We had a couple of larger parties booked in before the restrictions came in, we had to give them calls and tell them they’d have to be split up across two, three or four tables.

“No one seems to mind, I think everyone’s just happy to get out and have a decent Christmas dinner this year as opposed to last year.”

She added: “We did have cancellations just like everyone else, but we had our Corner Shop open, so we’re able to sell products from there including gift vouchers and hampers.

“We were also doing CA @ Home – Christmas dinners at home, people were collecting them on Christmas Eve.

“Those tables we lost, we were able to make up for them through the Corner Shop, through CA @ Home.”

Aveen said: “It’s not all doom and gloom.

“We have had quite a lot of cancellations because of the six-per-table restriction and people now needing Covid passports – people aren’t wanting to get those if they’re anti-vax.

“It has been difficult, but we have been able to make it up by other means.

“We haven’t been as quiet as some of the other places.

“I’ve heard of people who have lost 80% of their bookings through cancellations or people not showing up.”

Under the new measures customers will only be allowed to move between toilets or to the till.

People are also being asked to limit their social contacts, with the public being advised that only three households should mix together in a private home.

Employers and employees are also being asked to work from home where possible, with two-metre social distancing a requirement in any office setting.

Nightclubs in NI had already been ordered to close from Boxing Day, with indoor standing events no longer permitted.

Last week ministers agreed a £40 million grant scheme to support hospitality businesses affected by the latest Covid-19 restrictions. Grants of between £10,000 and £20,000 will be available to more than 3,200 eligible businesses.

Meanwhile, the health secretary has said no further coronavirus restrictions will be introduced in England before the new year after ministers reviewed the latest data.

Sajid Javid said “people should remain cautious” and urged those marking the start of 2022 to consider testing themselves beforehand and to celebrate outside, with the omicron variant growing so fast that it accounts for 90% of all new Covid-19 cases.

The decision not to impose restrictions beyond the Plan B measures already in place in England comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was briefed on the impact Christmas mixing had had on coronavirus infections and hospital admissions.

Mr Javid told broadcasters yesterday: “We look at the data on a daily basis – that hasn’t changed over the Christmas period.

“But there will be no further measures before the new year. Of course, people should remain cautious as we approach New Year’s celebrations.

“Take a lateral flow test if that makes sense, celebrate outside if you can, have some ventilation if you can.

“Please remain cautious and when we get into the new year, of course, we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures, but nothing more until then, at least.”

The health secretary’s comments came after Mr Johnson had spoken with Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, about the Covid picture in the country.

The decision not to impose post-Christmas curbs on socialising puts England at odds with other parts of the UK, where post-Christmas restrictions have been deployed.

Restrictions on hospitality and large events have been brought in for those in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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