Anger from pub bosses over new Covid rules in Northern Ireland and Scotland

Hospitality chiefs say they have been ‘unfairly singled out’ as restrictions change 

Adam Forrest
Friday 11 December 2020 10:05
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Nicola Sturgeon relaxes Covid controls

Hospitality bosses in both Northern Ireland and Scotland have shared their anger over strict rules limiting their trade, as major changes to coronavirus restrictions come into force on Friday.

Pubs, restaurants, shops and close-contact services like salons are reopening their doors across Northern Ireland following a two-week lockdown aimed at bringing down infection rates.

However, pubs that do not serve a “substantial meals” will have to remain closed. The trade group Hospitality Ulster called it “unjust” – saying so-called wet pubs had been “once again unfairly singled out to bear the brunt of the Covid lockdown”.

In Scotland, meanwhile, cafes, restaurants, shops and hairdressers will be able to reopen on Friday in the 11 council areas across the central belt which have been moved from level 4 to level 3 status.

Yet pubs will still not be able to serve alcohol in level 3 areas. Hospitality chiefs in Edinburgh are frustrated the capital has not been given level 2 status – which would allow the sale of alcohol – given the city’s low infections rates.

Roy Brett, owner and chef at the Ondine eatery, told The Times the “decision beggars belief”. Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said the Scottish government’s decision to keep the city in level 3 was a “hammer blow for businesses and jobs”.

The latest Covid figures show Edinburgh’s case are 80 weekly cases per 100,000 people. City council chief Adam McVey, who also leads the SNP group, said he was “extremely disappointed” at the decision, given the infection rates “have now been consistently within the rates of level 2 for some time”.

Northern Ireland’s leaders defended the decision to relax restrictions on retail, hospitality and leisure at a time when daily death and infection numbers remain high.

The leaders of the power-sharing administration justified the reopenings as health minister Robin Swann warned that a “festive free-for-all” would be “catastrophic” for the region’s under-pressure hospital system.

First minister Arlene Foster said the fact the R rate of transmission had dropped to “around 1” had given the executive the “headroom” to proceed with the re-openings.

Arlene Foster

Deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill said the decision to lift some of the restrictions reflected the need to balance public health and economic concerns.

Ms Foster urged the public to “exercise personal responsibility” and “make good choices” while Ms O’Neill called for people not to be “reckless”.

Safety guidance for the reopening of hospitality businesses in Northern Ireland was published on Thursday, and states that a maximum of six adults from no more than two households are allowed at a pub or restaurant table.

Closing time will be 11pm at the latest, and all outlets will be required to collect the details of each customer to assist with contact tracing. Cinemas, museums, galleries and gyms can also reopen from Friday morning.

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