Coronavirus: Hotels, restaurants and some pubs reopen in Northern Ireland

Two further Covid-19-related deaths reported in the North amid easing of restrictions

Some pubs have reopened in Northern Ireland. File photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Some pubs have reopened in Northern Ireland. File photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

 

Hotels, cafes, restaurants, and pubs serving meals reopened in Northern Ireland on Friday in the latest easing of its coronavirus restrictions.

Some visitor attractions have also been allowed to reopen from July 3rd, as have museums, galleries and bookmakers.

Pubs and bars are required to operate as restaurants indoors, serving food to customers and doing so on a table service basis only. However, those with outdoor space, such as beer gardens, can serve alcohol in those areas with no requirement for customers to order food.

Social distancing of 1m must be observed in all hospitality businesses.

Two further coronavirus-related deaths were reported by the Department of Health (DoH) in Northern Ireland on Friday, bringing the total number of fatalities from the disease recorded by the DoH to 554.

Four new cases of Covid-19 were also confirmed. A total of 5,747 cases of the disease have now been identified in Northern Ireland since the outbreak there began.

The weekly data on coronavirus-related deaths published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) on Friday showed there were nine deaths involving Covid-19 in the North in the week ending June 26th.

The total number of coronavirus-related fatalities recorded by Nisra up until June 26th was 826, approximately 33 per cent higher than the figure noted by the DoH for the same period, which was 550.

Care home residents accounted for 417 fatalities, or 50.5 per cent of the total number of coronavirus-related deaths, according to Nisra.

Northern Ireland reports two sets of statistics on coronavirus-related fatalities. The figures released daily by the DoH are based on patients who have previously tested positive for Covid-19.

Nisra figures are based on information entered on death certificates by medical professionals, whether or not there has been a positive test for the virus.

‘Act responsibly’

As the hospitality sector reopened on Friday, the North’s Minister for Health, Robin Swann, appealed to the public to “drink and act responsibly” and to follow public health guidance at all times.

“I am not out to spoil anyone’s enjoyment. However, I have to remind everyone once again that the threat from Covid-19 is still very much with us.

“We are all familiar with the phrase: ‘When the drink’s in, the wit’s out.’ I hope and trust this will not be the case in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Industry body Hospitality Ulster welcomed the reopening of the hospitality sector and said businesses and customers must abide by the guidelines.

“We know that people have been stuck in their homes for almost 15 weeks and many will be keen to visit their favourite restaurant or pub when they reopen,” said its chief executive, Colin Neill.

However, he said customers should expect some changes due to reduced capacity and restrictions that meant that “food pubs must operate like restaurants indoors, non-food pubs [are] restricted to outdoors only, and some, as yet, unable to reopen”.

“I would advise customers to plan in advance to ensure they are not disappointed, and whilst businesses will be making every effort to ensure their safety, customers must also take responsibility for ensuring social distancing to protect staff and other customers,” he added.

He also called on the Executive to “urgently” give a reopening date for non-food pubs which cannot currently reopen. “They cannot sustain continued closure unless further financial assistance is forthcoming from the Northern Ireland Executive,” he said.