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We 'cannot keep returning to this cliff edge' over Covid restrictions, says Derry business organisation

Northern Ireland Executive agree new measures in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19

Donegal pubs set to reopen on Monday week

Pubs will remain closed under the new restrictions.

A group representing a large number of businesses in Derry have said they 'cannot keep returning to this cliff edge' over Covid restrictions.

This follows the announcement last night strict new lockdown restrictions will be introduced across Northern Ireland from November 27.

Non-essential retail will have to shut, and the hospitality sector will have to remain closed.

Schools will be allowed to stay open.

Close contact services can reopen today, but will have to close again on November 27.

The new restrictions are to operate for an initial period of two weeks.

Chief Executive of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce Paul Clancy said the news was 'a serious blow to businesses', particularly those in the North West that have been closed now for seven weeks.

“Whilst we understand the reason for further restrictions, it is hard to fathom why businesses had been led to believe they could be open and trading in time for the run up the Christmas," said Mr Clancy.

"Particularly when we are told that the evidence was there from scientific advisors pointing towards an increase in infection rates.

“Businesses have played by the rules and followed the restrictions, but we cannot keep returning to this cliff edge.

"These decisions should have been made last week but now we are in the absurd situation that some businesses will open tomorrow just for a matter of days before they are locked down again.

“Whilst the Executive engages with medical and scientific advisors, they need to engage in a more structured way with business organisations too.

"Working with businesses would help garner more understanding and support for their decisions, whilst allowing businesses to forward plan.

“We urgently need to see a strategy that will stop this eleventh hour approach to Covid regulations and put in place financial support measures to get businesses through what will be one of the worst Christmas periods in living memory.”

The Northern Ireland Executive met yesterday 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.

The measures agreed by ministers include:

- Closure of all non-essential retail

- Closure of close contact services such as hair and beauty salons and driving instructors; exemptions for those in film and TV production, those involved in health and social care services and elite sport services

- Hospitality will only be permitted to offer takeaway services - food and drink in motorway services, airports and harbour terminals remain open

- Closure of all leisure and entertainment to include soft play areas, gyms and swimming pools

- Sporting events only permitted at elite level and to be played without spectators

- Closure of places of worship with exceptions for weddings, civil partnerships and funerals - the maximum number present will remain at 25

- It is understood that close contact services and coffee shops that are due to reopen on Friday can still do so - but only for one week.

- Off licences will be allowed to remain open, but will have to close at 8pm

- No household gatherings of more than one household, other than current bubbling arrangements, will be permitted with exceptions for caring, maintenance, house moves.

- Schools and childcare will remain open.

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