16 March 2021


Reacting to the latest news from the NI Executive this afternoon, Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster commented:


“Once again we have been given no indicative dates or the data used for the continual lockdown of the hospitality sector.”


“Whilst we are encouraged to see that things are slowly moving forward, we need more clarity to plan for reopening. We have asked for indicative dates for the hospitality sector. At the very least, the data behind reopening decisions should be published.”


“If the data and information is not published and we are not presented with an evidence base on which decisions are being made, what are we to presume? We have seen successful legal challenges against restrictions in England and there is growing concern within the industry that decisions against the reopening of the hospitality sector, at the same time as non-essential retail, are based on bias, particularly a historical bias against premises selling alcohol.”


“This is a sector which is NI’s fourth largest private sector employer and pre-pandemic contributed £2bn a year to the economy we are talking about here - it is front and centre to our economic and social wellbeing. The people that work in it have a right to see the data that is being used to make decisions that threaten their livelihoods.”


“This is a call for transparency in the decision making process. We need to develop a level of faith that the reopening programme, and any future Covid restrictions, are based on real and accurate data. How do we know if we don’t have the information – let us see it.”


“We need government to engage with us, listen to us, and understand the policy and economic levers that need to be pulled - as outlined in our recent recovery document - to make sure that the entire hospitality sector can emerge as intact as possible after an awful year and placed on a viable and sustainable footing as we move through the reopening phases.”





Executive agrees a number of early relaxations to Covid-19 regulations

The Executive has today agreed several measured relaxations to the current Coronavirus Health Regulations.


While the majority of the current restrictions will remain in place until after Easter, the Executive agreed to gradual changes which will come into effect before the next formal review date on or before April 15.


In relation to schools, the Executive agreed that all Primary 4 to Primary 7 pupils will return to school from Monday, March 22.


It was also agreed that Year 8-11 pupils will return to the classroom after the Easter holiday on April 12, subject to a review of the public health situation at the end of March.


The return to face to face teaching limits the scope for further relaxations but, as a result of the efforts by the majority across society in following the public health advice and slowing the spread of the virus, Ministers agreed the following package of easements in outdoor settings.


These are seen to represent a lower risk than activities indoors and the Executive is keen to give the public the opportunity to interact with friends and families outdoors, while adhering to public health advice.


From April 1, the regulations will change to:


  • Permit 10 people from two households to undertake outdoor sporting activities as defined in the regulations. This allows sports such as golf and tennis to resume from this date in small groups of individuals from two households, however club houses and sport facilities including changing rooms, showers, kitchens, meeting rooms must remain closed apart from essential toilet facilities.
  • Up to six people (including children) from two households may meet outdoors in a garden, and
  • Garden centres and plant nurseries can operate a contactless click and collect service.

The Executive also agreed an indicative date of April 12 for:


  • Increasing the numbers who can meet outdoors in a garden from six to 10 (including children) from two households;
  • Allowing contactless click and collect service for all non-essential retail;
  • Allowing for sports training to resume by sports clubs affiliated with recognised Governing Bodies, in small groups of up to 15 people but with all indoor spaces closed except for essential toilet facilities; and
  • Removal of the ‘stay at home’ provision in the legislation; stronger promotion of the stay local and work from home messages.


These relaxations planned for April 12 will be subject to Executive ratification in the week after the Easter weekend.


The Executive has also agreed to increase the provision for elite sports from March 25 to allow a number of new competitions to begin.


This minor adjustment to the current restrictions will allow two World Cup qualifications matches scheduled for March 25 and 31 to take place as well as a friendly match between NI and the USA on March 28. Irish league teams will also be able to begin training.


No spectators will be permitted at any sporting event.