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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Stormont ministers fail to reach agreement on relaxing of lockdown restrictions

  • Split Executive delays announcement on hospitality restrictions
  • Death toll rises to 791
  • Cases since outbreak now 43,388
  • Justice Minister Naomi Long self-isolating
  • Vaccination of those at risk from Covid-19 could begin by end of the year after breakthrough: Robin Swann
  • Scroll down to read Monday's live blog as it happened

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Hospitality businesses are due to reopen on Friday

Hospitality businesses are due to reopen on Friday

Stormont ministers came in for criticism over the hospitality sector (Niall Carson/PA)

Stormont ministers came in for criticism over the hospitality sector (Niall Carson/PA)

Hospitality businesses are due to reopen on Friday

Stormont ministers have failed to reach agreement on a potential extension of circuit-break coronavirus restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Ministers in the powersharing executive are expected to resume discussions at 11am on Tuesday morning.

Extensive talks on Monday failed to produce an outcome, with ministers at odds on whether to extend some or all of the measures for a further two weeks.

The meeting had been adjourned to seek further data on the likely impact of the easing of some restrictions, including the reopening of restaurants without alcohol being sold.

It comes as a four-week circuit-break lockdown in Northern Ireland is due to end on Friday.

The relaxation of some measures, which could allow cafes and restaurants to reopen, but without alcohol being sold, is still being considered.

Representatives from the hospitality sector have criticised that suggestion, insisting the inability to sell alcohol would make trading unviable.

Belfast restaurateur Michael Deane called on the Executive to close the hospitality industry and provide support for the sector until the pandemic is over, stating businesses can't afford to continually open and close.

He said the proposal was "crazy" after representatives from the hospitality sector insisted the inability to sell alcohol would make trading unviable.

"Where does that leave us to go?" he asked. "Absolutely devastating and I think it is criminal, I think it is absolutely stupid."

Michael Deane said his business has lost close to £2m over the course of the pandemic.

"It cost us £20,000 to reopen and this is not viable for us going forward," he told BBC.

"I think they should just tell us to close until this is all over, fund the hospitality business and leave it at that.

"We can't just keep opening and closing with 150 to 200 staff running around not knowing what to do."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said on Sunday alcohol was a factor in considering what can reopen, because it causes people to lower their defences.

Meanwhile, a further ten people in Northern Ireland have died after testing positive for Covid-19 and 471 new cases of the virus have been reported.

It brings the death toll in the region to 791 and the total number of confirmed cases since the outbreak to 43,388. Some 3,921 people have tested positive in the last seven days.

Nine of the fatalities happened within the current reporting period, from 10am on Sunday to 10am on Monday, while the remaining death happened previously.

There are currently 426 Covid patients in hospitals across Northern Ireland, with 55 in intensive care and 43 requiring ventilation. Hospitals are at a 94% occupancy rate, with 164 beds available as of Monday afternoon.

A total of 139 care homes are dealing with outbreaks of the virus.

A major breakthrough has also been announced in the search for a coronavirus vaccine, with a jab from Pfizer found to be more than 90% effective.

The pharmaceutical giant and its partner BioNTech said interim results showed their jab could prevent people catching Covid-19.

Here's how Monday unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph


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