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Call for immediate emergency financial package for hospitality

Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster.

Hospitality Ulster says lockdown measures signed off by the Executive and Assembly today will be a complete disaster if an immediate emergency financial package is not extended to the hospitality sector.

This morning, First Minister Arlene Foster announced restaurants and pubs are to shut for a four-week period from Friday. Takeaways and home deliveries will still be permitted, and the hospitality sector is currently seeking clarity on whether the hotel sector falls under the restrictions.

“This is a situation that we have worked so hard to avoid by doing everything in our power as a sector to ensure we are not the cause of the community spread of the coronavirus,” said Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster.

“The hospitality sector has led the campaign to implement legally enforceable Covid regulations and has taken blow after blow financially as more and more restrictions have been put in place by the NI Executive.

“Let me be clear, now that this lockdown had been signed off, all costs of the sector need to be covered by the government to ensure our people have food on their tables and as many businesses as possible can be preserved.

“Unfortunately, it is clear that there will be total business failure for many and a whole host of redundancies across the sector. Many businesses do not have the money to pay redundancies and will be forced into bankruptcy when faced with the bill.

“The Executive must serve to underwrite this decision and take on the financial responsibility for specifically shutting down the hospitality sector. We don’t want to see a financial gesture, but a significant payment made to all those in the sector that have had their means of making a living stripped away from them for the greater good.”

“With hospitality on the front line of this crisis, we are also calling for the immediate establishment of a joint Government / Industry Covid response group led by the two Junior Ministers who have responsibility for the Covid regulations. We cannot take anymore Covid regulations without industry representation at the table.

“I cannot overstate the seriousness of this situation, tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses are now in free fall.”

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