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Belfast’s Sunflower Bar closes due to Covid, as senior medic warns Executive making ‘mistake’ over delaying restrictions


The Sunflower, Belfast

The Sunflower, Belfast

The Sunflower, Belfast

A Belfast publican has decided to close one of his city centre bars until January, after five of his staff tested positive for Covid.

Pedro Donald told BBC NI’s Good Morning Ulster radio programme that he “doesn’t have the staff to open the doors” and said the hospitality industry in Northern Ireland is “about to go over the cliff”.

It comes as the BMA NI chair Dr Tom Black said it is a “mistake” for the Executive to wait until next week before making a decision around further restrictions following Christmas.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Mr Donald said he closed his Sunflower Bar in Union Street due to a number of Covid cases among staff.

In a social media post the bar said they “feel that we have no other choice than to have a circuit breaker until the 3 January 2022”.

He told BBC Radio Ulster it was a “very difficult decision”.

It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to close the pub until the New Year. Unfortunately, some of our staff have...

Posted by Sunflower Public House & Live Music on Thursday, December 16, 2021

“Myself and the managers sat down yesterday... we came to the decision and said: ‘Yes we are going to have to’.

“Part of the reason is lack of staff, we now have five with Covid. I actually need extra staff, but I now have less staff.

“I don’t have the staff to open the door, I just can’t.

“We are now locked down. Other businesses just have to keep going, they have bills to pay. Realistically they shouldn't be, they are not making any money.”

Mr Donald also said if financial support from the Executive and the Treasury doesn’t come, businesses here will “hit a brick wall”.

Ministers will meet next Wednesday to consider potential new coronavirus restrictions in response to the threat posed by the highly transmissible variant.

At a meeting at Stormont on Thursday, Executive ministers received a stark briefing from officials on what the next number of weeks could hold if action is not taken.

A briefing paper warned "significant intervention" could be required immediately after Christmas to keep Covid-19 hospital inpatient numbers below 1,000.

The Executive said there were 151 confirmed Omicron cases here, which is likely to “increase rapidly in the coming days”.

Stormont's Finance Minister Conor Murphy confirmed on Thursday that he has written to the Treasury calling for additional funding and for the furlough scheme to be reinstated.

Dr Black said the public in Northern Ireland are “not waiting for the politicians to tell them what to do”.

“There is no doubt we don’t have hundreds [of cases of Omicron], it is much more likely we have thousands,” he said.

“Once you move that decimal point one place you realise that within a week and a half you are in very deep trouble and I think that is the situation we are in.

“We will watch our TVs and we will see what is happening in London and then that will happen to us a week to ten days later.

“We understand that this Omicron produces a 70-fold increase in virus particles compared to Delta.

“Do we know whether it will cause more severe illness or hospital admissions and death?

“We don’t know that, but you know what there has never been a time in the last 20 months when optimism paid off when it came to Covid. You have to be pessimistic.

“There will be a lot of people getting Omicron. I have my booster and I would not go into an indoor event. All of the countries are starting to bring in further restrictions.

“The problem we have is our politicians in the United Kingdom want us to see the problem before they give us the solution.”

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