| 5.8°C Belfast

Coronavirus: Executive hopes to make decision on hospitality restrictions next week

The First and Deputy First Ministers are hoping to make an announcement at the beginning of next week on whether or not further restrictions will be imposed on the hospitality sector.

Speaking at Thursday afternoon’s Covid-19 press conference, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill said discussions will continue with the sector over the weekend.

This came after it was expected that an announcement would be made in regards to the hospitality sector following a leaked Stormont health paper which said that restrictions on hospitality should be extended for two weeks.

Mrs Foster stated that the paper was not up for discussion at today’s Executive meeting.

“Of course, the paper from the Health Department will only give, as is right and proper, the view from the Health Department,” she said.

“I have said it before, as First and Deputy First Minister, we have to look right across the piece as to the impacts on society here in Northern Ireland.

“Of course we have to look at the health impact, we also have to look at the economic impacts, at the impacts on society, on the impacts on mental health, on the impacts of family life.

“We are considering all of that at the moment as an Executive. We also believe that the best place and the right place to announce anything new is in the Assembly chamber.

“We hope to be able to do that early next week in the full recognition of course, that these restrictions come to an end legally.”

Ms O’Neill added that it is a very “complex situation” and the Executive cannot look at all aspects of society in isolation.

“We have to look at everything around it which is why we spent a considerable period of time today talking our way through these things,” she said.

“We want to work with the sector and we will continue to do that over the next couple of days but we’re also very up front in saying it’s not ideal because we know that they need that certainty to plan for what comes next.”

At the beginning of Thursday’s press conference, the Executive released an emotional video of Rhonda Tait who lost her mother, Josephine Brown, to Covid-19 in April.

Ms Tait’s story will be broadcast on television and social media as part of the Executive’s public information campaign.

“Rhonda has been incredibly courageous in sharing her experience,” commented Mrs Foster. “She does so in the hope that more families won’t lose a loved one. That is why we are urging everyone to follow the guidance.”

Ms O’Neill said: “I am so sorry for Rhonda’s heart-breaking loss. The pain she continues to feel as a result of her mother’s death is still very raw and I thank her for the incredible bravery she has shown in telling her personal story to protect others from that same pain.”

Belfast Telegraph