The Executive are to meet later this morning to discuss the current restrictions which are in place as part of the four-week ‘circuit breaker’ to agree to a partial reopening of businesses which were forced to close on October 17.
The current restrictions are due to end on midnight on Thursday and it’s expected that close contact services may be able to reopen but under tight regulations, possibly one in – one out.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill did, however, suggest in an interview with BBC on Sunday that as far as the Hospitality sector was concerned a ‘partial reopening’ was likely of cafes and restaurants but restaurants would be prohibited from serving alcohol and pubs which serve alcohol only would remain closed for a further two weeks.
In a statement by Chief Executive Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster, Mr Neill has addressed the First and Deputy First Ministers asking them to allow licenced premises to also reopen on Friday.
“We really need the executive to make sure that the focus is on getting the entire hospitality sector back up and running again this Friday to save a significant amount of jobs and businesses,” he said.
“We now face a really important part of the year and although we are live to the fact that this will be an extremely challenging trading period, we need to have the doors open.
“Hundreds of businesses are struggling and now in debt as they try to keep staff in the face of mounting bills and a lack of financial aid from the government, which covers very little in reality.”
“If there is any decision to defer then it simply cannot be for anything more than two weeks. The 27 November, for example, only gives four weekends in which to trade before Christmas. Any date beyond that will have a huge impact and we’ll likely see thousands of layoffs and businesses not fit to reopen again if there is any delay.
“We have not seen anywhere near the level of financial support needed to preserve businesses that are closed, even the furlough scheme, whilst welcome, does nothing to help those under pressure. For example, businesses are expected to pay £30 a week per employee, so if you have 100 staff, you need to find £3000 a week from thin air.“
In conclusion, Mr Neill said: “Every day businesses are closed, means more job losses and more business failures, it’s as simple as that.”
The decision is expected to be finalised later today.