Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Lockdown extended by one week

Northern Ireland‘s leaders have tonight agreed a one-week lockdown extension, sources say.

It comes after four days of arguments between lawmakers, and hours after they realised the original Covid rules were due to end a day later than they had originally thought. 

The new rules will see an extension of the current circuit-break lockdown followed by a partial reopening of the hospitality sector, Stormont sources have said.

It is understood that the DUP, UUP and Alliance voted for the proposals, made by Economy Minister Diane Dodds, while Sinn Fein voted against and the SDLP abstained.

According to reports, under the new rules, close contact services, including hairdressing, beauty treatments and driving lessons, will resume on November 20 by appointment only.

According to reports, under the new rules, close contact services, including hairdressing, beauty treatments and driving lessons, will resume on November 20 by appointment only

According to reports, under the new rules, close contact services, including hairdressing, beauty treatments and driving lessons, will resume on November 20 by appointment only

According to reports, under the new rules, close contact services, including hairdressing, beauty treatments and driving lessons, will resume on November 20 by appointment only

The new rules which are understood to have been agreed by Stormont ministers 

 It is understood that under the new rules:

– Close contact services, including hairdressing, beauty treatments and driving lessons, will be allowed to resume on November 20 by appointment only

– Unlicensed premises, including cafes and coffee shops, will be allowed to reopen on November 20. There will be restricted opening hours to 8pm, while no alcohol can be consumed in these premises.

– All other sections of hospitality that have been closed during the circuit-break will be allowed to reopen on November 27.

– Pubs and bars will be permitted to sell sealed off-sales from November 20.

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Unlicensed premises, including cafes and coffee shops, will also reopen on November 20, with restricted opening hours to 8pm. However, no alcohol can be consumed in these premises. 

All other sections of hospitality that have been closed during the circuit-break will open on November 27.

Pubs and bars permitted will be permuted to sell sealed off-sales from November 20.

A Sinn Fein source said the party voted against the proposals because it ran contrary to the guidance from Stormont’s medical and scientific advisers to extend the circuit-break in its entirety for two weeks.  

It understood the meeting included fractious exchanges between Sinn Fein and DUP ministers and that at one point DUP First Minister Arlene Foster told her Sinn Fein counterparts: ‘I won’t be taking any lectures from Sinn Fein on excess deaths.’

It is also understood health minister Robin Swann backed the proposal as a way to avoid all the regulations lapsing at midnight on Friday.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: ‘Today the Executive agreed to a two week extension of the regulations with coffee shops, cafes and close contact services opening a week earlier.

‘While the SDLP was pleased that the additional financial support we have been pushing for was also agreed, SDLP Minister Nichola Mallon abstained on the vote as she could not in good conscience support measures that fell short of protecting against plunging us into more restrictions just before Christmas – even two weeks would have risked that.’

The parties have been divided over whether to give primacy to medical advice to keep hospitality closed to hamper spread of the coronavirus or to reopen part of the economy to save livelihoods.

The DUP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance Party voted for the breakthrough proposals.

It built on Alliance Justice Minister Naomi Long’s earlier hybrid proposal to break the deadlock by adding a definite date when the rest of the hospitality sector can open its doors.

It understood the meeting included fractious exchanges between Sinn Fein and DUP ministers and that at one point DUP First Minister Arlene Foster told her Sinn Fein counterparts: 'I won't be taking any lectures from Sinn Fein on excess deaths.'

It understood the meeting included fractious exchanges between Sinn Fein and DUP ministers and that at one point DUP First Minister Arlene Foster told her Sinn Fein counterparts: 'I won't be taking any lectures from Sinn Fein on excess deaths.'

It understood the meeting included fractious exchanges between Sinn Fein and DUP ministers and that at one point DUP First Minister Arlene Foster told her Sinn Fein counterparts: ‘I won’t be taking any lectures from Sinn Fein on excess deaths.’

Hours earlier, hotelier Bill Wolsey was among scores of business owners who have voiced frustration. 'Our politicians are a bit like track and trace - not fit for purpose,' he said

Hours earlier, hotelier Bill Wolsey was among scores of business owners who have voiced frustration. 'Our politicians are a bit like track and trace - not fit for purpose,' he said

Hours earlier, hotelier Bill Wolsey was among scores of business owners who have voiced frustration. ‘Our politicians are a bit like track and trace – not fit for purpose,’ he said

The fourth meeting of Stormont Executive ministers in four days started just after 4pm on Thursday afternoon.

The deaths of another 15 people with Covid-19 were announced on Thursday, along with 548 new confirmed cases of the virus.

Ministers have been at loggerheads, with three proposals on the executive’s next pandemic response being voted down during fractious exchanges within the administration.

The DUP has used a contentious voting mechanism to veto two proposals from Mr Swann to extend the circuit-break measures – one proposed a two-week extension, the other a single week.

Hours earlier, hotelier Bill Wolsey was among scores of business owners who have voiced frustration.

‘Our politicians are a bit like track and trace – not fit for purpose,’ he said.

‘How can I be sitting here and not knowing if I am able to open tomorrow? How do we get to this state?’

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