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What does safe look like, asks Hospitality Ulster

Hospitality Ulster is calling on the Health Minister to urgently outline what the safe reopening of the hospitality industry looks like and to end unnecessary speculation around potential additional restrictions.

The call follows comments by the Health Minister, Robin Swann and Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Ian Young, who suggested they expect to call for additional restrictions on the hospitality industry in the coming weeks.

Despite the announcement on Thursday that licensed premises would be allowed to reopen on Friday 27 November, doubt has once again been cast on this idea with many businesses now fearful that they will be denied the chance to trade during the crucial month of December in an effort to save jobs and businesses.

Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster said: “Last week was a week of uncertainty for business owners and their staff, who are now being placed under further unnecessary stress and anxiety as speculation mounts on the moving of the goal posts in relation to the reopening and restrictions in the hospitality industry.”

“It was announced last week that licensed premises would be kept closed for two additional weeks in line with the CMO’s original advice, however, we are now being told in the media to expect further restrictions in the coming weeks. Is it the case that a longer closure was planned, but is being implemented as a rolling two week closure? The medical experts must clarify this and provide an urgent update on the path out of this rolling lockdown scenario.”

“We all understand the dangers presented by this virus, however, from the outset, those in the hospitality industry have done everything they have been asked to do, and indeed suggested additional measures to make their businesses Covid secure, often at considerable cost. It is therefore unfair that the people that work in the hospitality industry have to hear of plans for additional restrictions through the media without any details and no engagement with the industry.”

“We understand there are no certainties in this pandemic, but surely the medical experts have looked at all the possibilities and scenarios for every outcome. Obviously, there is criteria to lockdown the hospitality, so there must also be criteria for opening up the industry and saving thousands of jobs and businesses.”

“It is incumbent upon the NI Executive to end this uncertainty now and to provide clarity to business owners and workers as they look ahead to the crucial month of December. The damage that would be done to businesses and livelihoods if the hospitality industry is denied the opportunity to reopen on the 27 November would be huge. It increasingly seems that little or no thought is given to the 65,0000 hospitality employees and the wider supply chain who will struggle to provide for their families this Christmas, if reopening is pushed back. We continually hear proposals to close hospitality, but no realistic proposals to save the businesses and 65,000 jobs if lockdown continues.”

“We have written to the Health Minister seeking an urgent meeting as we need to be told what exactly ‘safe’ looks like and what the criteria to reopen hospitality is to end this unnecessary speculation.”