Wet pubs to remain shut as NI deals with rise in coronavirus cases

Pubs which do not serve food will not be able to reopen next week, Stormont ministers said.

Theatre reopening has also been delayed as Northern Ireland marks another pause in emerging from lockdown.

They had been given an indicative date of next Tuesday to begin trading but ministers said they could not approve the move due to increased spread of the coronavirus.

Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster chief executive and representative of a large numbers of publicans, said: “This is catastrophic news for hard-working publicans right across Northern Ireland who made the ultimate sacrifice in closing their premises six months ago for the greater good.

“These individuals and families have endured two months of additional closure without any financial support.

“In so doing, they have already demonstrated a high level of responsibility at considerable personal and financial cost.”

Another 72 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

A total of 384 have tested positive over the last seven days, the Department of Health said on Wednesday.

No new deaths were recorded.

An Executive Office spokesman said: “With the increased transmission rate of the virus in the community and the R number at around 1.3, the Executive agreed that no further restrictions will be lifted at this time.

“The indicative date of September 1 for the opening of wet pubs, private members’ clubs and audiences returning to theatres has not been ratified by the Executive.

“Officials have engaged with the different stakeholder bodies and no new indicative dates have been set.”

Jean McConville murder
Jean McConville murder

Meanwhile, two police stations in Northern Ireland which closed after officers tested positive, Antrim and Newtownabbey, reopened to members of the public on Wednesday evening.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assistant chief constable Alan Todd said appropriate steps were immediately taken to address and manage the issue.

He said the health and welfare of members of the public attending stations and that of officers and staff was of paramount importance.

The force has commenced a phased return to duty for officers based in those stations as it is now assessed that it is safe to do so.

Mr Todd added: “Once again, I would like to reassure the public that plans remain in place across the district to provide a service to the community and keep people safe.”

Five patients on a cancer ward in Northern Ireland have tested positive for Covid-19.

It is the second cluster of infections at Craigavon Area Hospital in Co Armagh.

Coronavirus – Thu Jul 23, 2020
Coronavirus – Thu Jul 23, 2020

Health Minister Robin Swann has pledged to leave no stone unturned in tracing the outbreaks.

He said the country’s health system was in a fragile place as he warned against complacency over social distancing.

Totals allowed to socialise indoors at households have been reduced to six from no more than two households.

The limit on those attending outdoor gatherings fell from 30 to 15.