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One-metre social distancing would save thousands of jobs, says hospitality body

Hospitality Ulster said the current two-metre rule is ‘simply not achievable or viable’ in most businesses.

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Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster beside closed bars and restaurants in Larne, Co Antrim (PA)

Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster beside closed bars and restaurants in Larne, Co Antrim (PA)

Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster beside closed bars and restaurants in Larne, Co Antrim (PA)

Reducing social distancing rules to one metre in pubs would save thousands of jobs, their industry body in Northern Ireland has said.

Footpaths and car parks could be used to enable compliance with regulations designed to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus, Hospitality Ulster said.

The present official recommendation is two metres but that has come under increasing scrutiny as businesses attempt to recover from lockdown.

Chief executive Colin Neill said: “With the World Health Organisation citing that one-metre social distancing can be effective, we welcome the discussion by the Northern Ireland Executive into the possibility of the two-metre rule being reduced. A measure that would directly save thousands of jobs.

“At two metres it is simply not achievable or viable in most of our hospitality businesses.

“Even with a one-metre social distancing rule, many businesses will still be unsustainable, and we are working with government to reimagine how our hospitality offer could work.”

Many staff have been furloughed since lockdown began and pubs, restaurants and hotels ordered to shut in March.

Mr Neill added: “We have been bringing forward innovate ideas about the use of outdoor spaces like pavements, parking bays and car parks to help businesses be financially sustainable as they reopen under distancing rules.”

This move would save the livelihoods of thousands of people that work in our industry and the hundreds of businesses that make up our hospitality sectorColin Neill, Hospitality Ulster

He said he is mindful of the competitive advantage enjoyed by counterparts in the Republic of Ireland, with a June reopening date and the July holiday season looming.

Mr Neill said: “With progress being made to reduce the spread of the virus, we believe the headroom created could now be used to bring forward the reopening of our hospitality industry and reduce social distancing from two metres to one metre.

“This move would save the livelihoods of thousands of people that work in our industry and the hundreds of businesses that make up our hospitality sector.”

PA