Yesterday evening (19 November) Stormont confirmed that the planned reopening of the country's restaurants, pubs and bars next Friday (27 November) would no longer ahead and instead the lockdown would be extended for another two weeks.
A complete shutdown of Northern Ireland's hospitality sector, apart from for deliveries and takeaways, was ordered last month following a spike of Coronavirus cases and was originally expected to last four weeks; with the new extension it will now be at least double that.
As was announced last week, unlicensed businesses including cafes and coffee shops will be permitted to reopen from today (20 November) with an 8pm curfew in place, but will be required to close their doors once again next Friday under the 'circuit-breaker' restrictions.
Hospitality venues will still be permitted to operate takeaway services, subject to an 11pm curfew.
It comes after Health Minister Robin Swann warned more restrictions were necessary by the end of November.
He said otherwise, a full lockdown in mid-December would not be enough to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Reacting to the announcement, trade body Hospitality Ulster said the Executive has the ultimate responsibility to provide greater financial support and help save businesses and jobs.
“A reopening date is now irrelevant, it’s now about a rescue package,” said Colin Neill, chief executive for Hospitality Ulster.
“65,000 people in the hospitality industry are now looking to the Executive to save their jobs and livelihoods. This is no longer about a date, this is now about a multi-million pound emergency rescue package.
"The sector now faces disaster.
“All trust in the Executive by the hospitality sector has been wiped away.
"We were told that Christmas trading would be saved, that is now gone. There is a huge amount of anger right across the hospitality industry. We have been left with no trade, no hope and a huge amount of redundancies on our hands.
“The Government now has the ultimate responsibility for funding this extended enforced lockdown and not at some paltry level, but an actual financial package that proves that the Government wants to save jobs. So far we have had no indication that this is the case.”
“We now expect to meet with the Health Minister, Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser for an urgent meeting with the hospitality industry steering group to start the process of working a way out of this awful situation.”
The Executive is set to develop more financial support packages in the next few days.