LISTEN: Pubs and restaurants will open when safe to do so, says Dodds

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By Q Radio News and PA

Stormont Economy Minister Diane Dodds said she wanted pubs and restaurants to reopen safely when it came time to do that.

"We hope that we will be able to open up those facilities sooner rather than later," she said.

She acknowledged other countries had adopted one-metre social distancing guidelines.

"What we do in relation to these measures is guided by the science... guided by the information from our chief medical officer and our chief scientific officer but it is absolutely clear that it becomes more viable for restaurants and hotels to operate under the one-metre guideline rather than the two-metre guideline."

Diane Dodds told the Stormont daily news conference: "It is something we will have to give thought to."

Hotels enjoy a 'huge lift'

John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI, said hotels had enjoyed a "huge" uplift in the number of bookings since the Executive announced an indicative date for reopening on July 20.

He said tourists would not want to come if they did not feel safe.

"All of this will be driven by public safety being paramount and us being able to convince others that they can be content that it is safe for visitors to come," he said.

Delay in the Troubles pension 

Diane Dodds also said the Stormont Executive should "get ahead" and pay compensation to victims of the Troubles.

She said the Department of Justice had offered to administer it.

"We as a party have agreed and we are waiting on other parties to step up to the plate and agree this," she said.

"It is unseemly to have this delay.

"These people are not deserving of this delay and I would like to see this matter progressed as quickly as possible."

Shielding

More nuanced advice could be prepared for the most vulnerable groups shielding from coronavirus, Stormont's chief scientific adviser said.

Fresh letters are due to go out in Northern Ireland over coming weeks to thousands of people with serious underlying health conditions.

The risk of another wave of infection could be greater this autumn and winter, Prof Young added.

People with serious underlying health conditions have expressed frustration that some people are flouting social distancing advice on beaches, while others have remained indoors for 10 weeks.

Prof Young said: "Those who have been shielding have given up a considerable sacrifice and have suffered significantly as a result of that.

"The risk to an individual if they contract the virus remains as severe as it has ever been, but as the level of transmission is much lower in the community then their risk of being exposed is less than it was in the past.

"That may allow more nuanced advice."

About 80,000 people have received official letters urging them to remain at home at all times and arrange delivery of food and medicine

Death's today

Today saw eight new deaths linked to COVID-19 announced by the Department of Health.

Just two of these had occurred since yesterday.

The Department of Health data shows that five hundred and thirty four people have now died as a result of COVID-19.

 

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