COVID-19: Northern Ireland 'circuit-breaker' lockdown extended after confusion over deadline

·2-min read

Northern Ireland's circuit-breaker lockdown has been extended for one week - with the hospitality industry partially reopening next Friday.

Close-contact services such as barbers, beauty salons and driving lessons can open again on 20 November by appointment only.

Cafes and coffee shops can open the same day, with hours restricted to 8pm.

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All other sections of the hospitality trade, such as hotels, pubs and bars, can reopen on 27 November.

Democratic Unionists and ministers from smaller parties backed the proposal by the economy minister, Diane Dodds.

Sinn Fein voted against and nationalist SDLP abstained.

Sky News senior Ireland correspondent David Blevins said: "The good news is that they have finally taken some decision after four days of wrangling."

Before the announcement, it emerged that political parties had been working to the wrong deadline.

Restrictions were seemingly due to end at midnight tonight, but ministers discovered that they did not expire until midnight tomorrow.

Sam McBride, political editor at the Belfast Newsletter tweeted earlier: "Major development for anyone planning to re-open tomorrow, you can't - even if ministers have not agreed on new restrictions.

"The executive has just confirmed to me that the current regulations do not expire at midnight tonight, as senior politicians have said, but 24 hours later."

In a statement, Northern Ireland's Department of Health, said earlier: "Executive ministers last night received legal advice that the deadline for the current restrictions on hospitality and close contact businesses is midnight on Friday November 13 and not tonight."

On Friday it will be four weeks since the hospitality sector and close contact services in the country were ordered to close.

Businesses had been fiercely critical of ministers for their failure to reach agreement and provide guidance in time for them to rehire staff and order stock.

The Dirty Onion pub in Belfast tweeted earlier: "Enough is enough. We are opening tomorrow.

"We've waited and waited for Stormont to make a decision on the opening of the hospitality sector. Our staff don't have the job luxuries afforded to our so-called politicians.

"The complete lack of leadership, communication and clarity means we will make the decision for them."

Health officials had warned that the political brinkmanship is undermining the public health message at a critical time in the battle against the second wave.