Hotels in Northern Ireland may continue to operate on a "restricted basis", first minister Arlene Foster has confirmed.
Foster announced earlier this week that Northern Ireland's hospitality sector would have to close from 6pm tonight (16 October) for four weeks, apart from deliveries and takeaways.
However, she has since confirmed that bookings made for this weekend can be honoured if guests are in the hotel by 6pm, and hotel bars should close from that time.
From next week, hotels will be able to continue to provide services to those requiring them for work-related purposes, including staff on the frontline battling Covid, as well as vulnerable people, people in emergency situations, and those unable to return to their main address. Self-catering and rented holiday accommodation can also remain open.
She said: "This is not a lockdown. This is a careful and considered blend of actions designed to cause the maximum damage to the virus but the minimum damage to the everyday lives of our people."
Finance minister Conor Murphy has also announced a £35m extension of the financial support scheme for businesses subject to restrictions from Monday. Businesses will receive up to £3,200 for every two weeks that they are closed.
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, welcomed the financial support but said it was "nowhere near enough" to allow hospitality businesses to pay the furlough contribution of their staff, supplier bills and to survive.
He said: "We now need the prime minister, the chancellor and the treasury to listen up, level up, and stop sitting on their hands. It is clear that they need to get more emergency funding allocated to Stormont so that the Executive and relevant departments have enough money to properly support the sector and that they can get it out to those hospitality businesses who are in dire need.
"One of the most important elements to all this is that Westminster must bring forward a qualifying date for the new Jobs Support Scheme to 16 October as bank accounts are empty, overdrafts are stretched and credit is exhausted. How does the chancellor even think business owners and employers are even going to make up their contribution to the furlough scheme with nothing left."
Photo: Flickr – DUP Photos