‘Wet pubs’ set to reopen in North despite fresh Covid restrictions

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Michelle Devane and David Young, PA

Pubs that do not serve food are due to open in Northern Ireland later, despite fresh Covid-19 restrictions.

It comes a day after additional restrictions limiting domestic gatherings were imposed in the region aimed at curbing spiralling infection rates of the disease.

Restrictions on households were extended to the entire region on Tuesday evening.

There can be no mixing of households indoors, with some exemptions, while no more than six people from two households can meet in a garden.

Previously, the measures only applied to Belfast and Ballymena in Co Antrim.

The reopening of so-called wet pubs was pushed back on several occasions by the Executive.

Pubs that do serve food were able to reopen at the start of July.

Northern Ireland’s leaders acknowledged on Tuesday that Stormont’s latest Covid-19 messaging had become confused.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill accepted that introducing region-wide restrictions on domestic gatherings just hours before the reopening of pubs that do not serve food appeared “conflicting”, while First Minister Arlene Foster conceded the moves could be seen as “counter-intuitive”.

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Both leaders insisted there was sound scientific evidence to justify the contrasting steps.

They stressed that pubs provided more controlled environments where social distancing and infection control measures could be regulated and enforced.

The ministers said the data indicated that spiralling infection rates were linked to transmission in homes.

“I put my hands up and say I think it is actually a confusing message that you are moving towards opening up a sector,” said Ms O’Neill.

Mrs Foster added: “I think it’s counter-intuitive for people when we say to them ‘don’t mix in your own homes, but you’re still able to go out to restaurants and other hospitality venues’.

“There’s a perfectly good reason behind that and that is because actually the virus is spreading in people’s own homes because there isn’t the same mitigations present in homes.”

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