Childcare, social bubbles and the return of pubs and restaurants – Executive announces lockdown relaxations

DEPUTY First Minister Michelle O’Neill has revealed that the ‘bubble’ concept can be extended to two households in the next number of weeks.

his came after a raft of Covid-19 lockdown relaxations were announced for the hospitality sector.

Speaking at this afternoon’s press briefing, First Minister Arlene Foster also confirmed that the Executive has been looking at how other countries has developed their own one metre vs two metre rule debate.

Commenting on the relaxations for pubs, restaurants and hotels, DUP leader Mrs Foster explained that they can reopen on July 3, while caravan parks, camping sites and self-catering tourist accommodation can open on June 26.


First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Monday.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

“Pubs, bars and social clubs with outdoor spaces will also be permitted to serve alcohol outdoors by table service and indoor pubs, bars and social clubs will be able to serve meals with alcohol,” she said.

“Hotel restaurants will also be permitted to reopen and hotel bars will be restricted to serving meals with alcohol auxiliary to this.

“As with pubs and bars, hotels with outdoor spaces will be permitted to sell alcohol in those spaces.

“We can also confirm today that visitor attractions such as museums, historical houses, cultural and heritage venues may also open from July 3 with strict social distancing in place.”


First Minister Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Monday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Mrs Foster added that the Executive has agreed to adopt a “graduated approach” to extending the bubble concept, where a network of people can see each other and stay at each other’s homes.

Two full households can come together to create a bubble and a date for when that can happen will be announced in the next few weeks.

Sinn Fein’s northern leader Ms O’Neill, stated: “I am pleased today that we’re able to signal our intention to continue with that phased approach to the relaxation of restrictions on social contact.

“We propose that in the next number of weeks, two households on any size will be able to form an exclusive bubble with each other.

“Our ability to move to this will depend on the assessment of risk at that time but we hope that this will give people something to look forward to after such a long time without close contact in which we know has been very difficult for many people.”

Mrs Foster added that childcare will also be extended to those working in the manufacturing and construction sectors and a further paper on childcare will be presented to the Executive this Thursday for discussion.

“The Executive also recognises that childcare is essential to many people returning to work,” she said.

“We have already agreed to extend the definition of key worker for childcare to include the retail sector and there will also be a gradual increase in the number of family child minders who are permitted to permit child care over the coming months.

“Today we have agreed that childcare should also be made available to those working in the manufacturing and construction sectors who had not previously been covered by the definition of key worker.

“Officials from health and education are continuing to work alongside a sector reference group in the development of a recovery strategy for childcare.

“This will be based on parental need and including assessing where there are capacity gaps.”

When asked about the one metre vs two metre social distancing debate, both Mrs Foster and Ms O’Neill stated that it was something the Executive was constantly keeping under review.

“I’m very aware of the calls for the two metres versus one metre move,” said Ms O’Neill.

“I think that certainly it’s something we discuss at every single Executive meeting.

“We’re continually keeping this issue under review and we have to come at this in a balanced way so trying to measure the risk and see how far we can move.

“We’re not at the point yet where we can move but we certainly have committed that we will continue to keep this issue under review.”

Belfast Telegraph

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