Stormont’s First Minister has defended a decision to ease restrictions on the hospitality sector last month.
On October 31 – Halloween party night – ministers allowed nightclubs in Northern Ireland to reopen and ended social distancing rules that had limited capacity in pubs and restaurants.
The move came despite a warning from the British Medical Association which criticised the decision to ease restrictions at a time when community transmission of coronavirus remained high and pressures on the health service continued to mount.
Just over three weeks on, Stormont ministers are grappling with soaring case numbers.
The measures that were taken by the Executive, I believe, were the right measures
On Tuesday they bolstered working-from-home advice and agreed a series of other steps aimed at increasing compliance with Covid rules
Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that closure of hospitality businesses may be required over Christmas if the surge is not brought under control.
At a press conference at Stormont Castle on Tuesday, ministers were asked whether they regretted easing restrictions at the end of October.
Mr Givan defended the moves, saying: “The measures that were taken by the Executive, I believe, were the right measures.
“And we have retained a number of key baseline requirements like carrying out risk assessments to ensure that events that happen are done so in a safe manner that minimises the risk of transmission. This is about making sure that there is greater adherence to those measures that are still here.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said it was not the time to look back on past decisions.
“There’ll be plenty of time for reflection around decisions and decision points and what informed those decisions,” she said.
“For now, I’m more focused on what we’re doing today. We’ve tried to work with society, with the different sectors, we’re trying to get people open and safe, we’ve tried voluntary approaches and, unfortunately, then we find ourselves in the scenario that we are in today.
“But I think that all of our energy and all of our focus has to be on how we get through the next number of weeks and into the new year.”