CHANGES TO COVID REGULATIONS - UPDATE 7th SEPTEMBER
07 September 2021
The following guidance does not constitute legal advice- all regulations not mentioned still apply.
The NI Executive has announced a number of modest relaxations to the current Coronavirus Regulations. The Executive stressed that these changes must be seen in the context that Covid-19 remains prevalent, and ongoing care and attention is essential in all settings and sectors and in all our interactions with our families and friends.
The following changes will come into effect at 5pm on Friday 10th September 2021.
Hospitality Ulster has requested an urgent meeting with government officials to seek clarification on the changes to the regulations and will issue further guidance ASAP.
TABLE SERVICE- INDOOR
The current requirement for table service will be eased, both indoors and outdoors, to enable customers to go to the bar to place orders or pay.
ALL SEATED- INDOOR
In indoor settings, customers are still be required to return to their table in order to consume their food or drink. No consumption or sitting at the bar counter indoor is allowed. No standing to consume.
The prohibition on standing to consume food and drink outdoors will be removed.
Masks must be worn indoors when not seated
POOL, DARTS & GAMING MACHINES
The Executive has removed the prohibition on movement and standing to allow customers to play darts, pool, gaming machines etc. But they must always wear a mask when not seated!
MANAGING MOVEMENT & QUEUEING
The Executive stated that the hospitality sector will also need to consider how best to manage the movement and queueing of customers to mitigate risk. In addition, the requirement to wear face coverings while not seated indoors will continue.
The current restriction on music volume to background or ambient levels is removed.
For live performance events (concerts and gigs) the requirements for tickets to be purchased in advance and allocated seating is removed. However, customers must still be seated and the requirement to record contact details for all attendees continues.
The current restriction on dancing in indoor settings is removed for post wedding and civil partnership celebrations ONLY. Masks must be worn when not seated.
WORKING FROM HOME
While the message to work from home where possible and appropriate remains, the Executive has encouraged employers to plan for a return to the workplace with consideration of mitigations to control the spread of the virus and engagement with employees and their representatives on the beneficial use of flexible working where appropriate.
Businesses will need to update their risk assessment to take account of these changes- all risk assessments must also take account of government guidance and the duty of care to limit the spread of Covid-19.
PROTECTION FOR BUSINESS TENANTS
Finance Minister Conor Murphy has extended emergency protection for business tenants having difficulty paying rent on commercial leases as a result of the pandemic until March 2022. A Code of Practice published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-the-commercial-property-sector
HOSPITALITY ULSTER REACTION
Reacting to the latest change in regulations- Hospitality Ulster has called for a clear roadmap out of restrictions as limitations remain on industry – “if not now, when?” questions our Chief Executive
Hospitality Ulster has called on the Executive to provide a roadmap, with dates, out of the current restrictions still imposed on the hospitality industry.
The organisation this afternoon has welcomed some of the incremental changes announcement by the Executive, but that now is the time to provide indicative dates and a framework of action to move out of the remaining restrictions, which are stifling the sector’s recovery efforts.
Hospitality Ulster says that there is a significant set of problems on the horizon as government financial support is gradually withdrawn and businesses are left to fend for themselves, despite still having their trading curtailed by restrictions.
They have questioned what plan is in place to support the 72,000 jobs it sustained pre-pandemic.
Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster said:
“In reality these are small incremental changes announced today. A major strategic decision needs to be taken by the Executive to bring forward a detailed and specific roadmap to address the problems that are gathering on the horizon – if not now, when?”
“Hospitality businesses are left hanging while restrictions continue to place a halt on viable trading. We need the best chance we can get to recover. We are concerned that this is not a priority at Stormont Castle. This is a sector that, pre-pandemic, sustained 72,000 – the fourth largest private sector employer. This must be a code red priority for the Executive. Where is the plan; the roadmap; the dates; the additional interim support?”
“We have been pressing Executive Ministers to engage with our sector, and work in partnership with us to ensure that urgency is injected into the recovery phase. They might not want to hear it, but we are now on the cusp of the Christmas planning period for the sector and we do not need another disaster on our hands. We need a reasonable timeframe set out to guide us on how we can make the most of a vital part of the year for the whole industry.”
“Business owners are at their wit’s end and their anxiety is sky high. This really is an unnecessary place to be in. Is it too much to ask that we try and work our way out of this? Until then, a bespoke package of support measures need to be developed and implemented for the hospitality industry. You can’t tie one hand behind our back and expect everything to be ok”.