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Coronavirus updates: Beannchor Group temporarily lays off 800 staff after Belfast hotel and bar closures

  • 800 people temporarily laid off as Beannchor Group close bars and hotels
  • "Whatever it takes": Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces raft of measures to protect the economy
  • PM Boris Johnson tells Cabinet "we are engaged in a war" against coronavirus
  • UK government's chief scientific adviser says it would be a "good outcome" if 20,000 or fewer people died of the virus in the country
  • Foreign Office advises against all non-essential foreign travel for an initial period of 30 days
  • 10 new positive cases in NI, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 62, but testing remains limited

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Beannchor Managing Director Bill Wolsey on the steps of the group's flagship Merchant Hotel in Belfast.

Beannchor Managing Director Bill Wolsey on the steps of the group's flagship Merchant Hotel in Belfast.

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy announce emergency measures to protect the economy during the Covid-19 crisis

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy announce emergency measures to protect the economy during the Covid-19 crisis

Beannchor Managing Director Bill Wolsey on the steps of the group's flagship Merchant Hotel in Belfast.

The Beannchor group has announced it's temporarily laying off up to 800 staff as they temporarily close the majority of their Belfast hotels and bars.

The Dirty Onion and Yard Bird, The National, sixty6, Bullitt Belfast, The Ulster Sports Club and the Park Avenue Hotel will close with immediate effect.

The Group’s flagship hotel, the Merchant Hotel will remain open, with a significantly scaled back offering to ensure adherence to the latest coronavirus guidelines.

Little Wing Pizzeria restaurants will also remain open, with increased social distancing protocols in place as will The Hillside in Hillsborough.

This has been an emotional and extremely tough decision but if we do not act now, we will not have a business to return to Bill Wolsey

Beannchor Managing Director Bill Wolsey said he made the decision with a heavy heart.

"Never in forty three years of business have I seen a crisis like this one, nor faced a decision like this," he said

"This has been an emotional and extremely tough decision but if we do not act now, we will not have a business to return to. We have made this decision because we feel we have to act responsibly in the best longer term interests of the group and its staff."

It's understood hundreds of jobs are also at risk at Newry-based cruise ship outfitting company MJM Marine.

It comes after Finance Minister Conor Murphy announced an emergency £100m rates package to assist Northern Irish businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier on Monday Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Government will provide £330bn in Government backed and guaranteed loans to UK businesses affected by the coronavirus.

At a glance: UK Covid-19 financial measures:

  • £330bn government-backed loans and guarantees (15% GDP)
  • Claims available for venues with pandemic insurance
  • £25k-£10k cash grants for small businesses without insurance
  • No business rates for 12 months in hospitality sector (GB)/ No business rates for three months for all businesses (NI). Executive says rates holiday will save NI businesses £100m
  • Three-month mortgage holiday for those in difficulty

On Tuesday the Department of Health announced that ten new cases of the virus in Northern Ireland have been confirmed. Nearly 2,000 cases have been diagnosed across the UK.

But, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Dr Connor Bamford, a research fellow at Queen's University Belfast, said there could already be as many as 3,000 coronavirus cases in Northern Ireland alone.

Here's how Tuesday unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph