Glenarm Castle ‘devastated’ by new pandemic response restrictions

The management of a leading East Antrim tourist attraction says it is”devastated” by last night’s announcement of further restrictions by the Northern Ireland Executive in response to the Covid pandemic.

A comment on social media from Glenarm Castle described the  two-week “circuit breaker” as a “very difficult and extremely stressful situation”.

After re-opening the cafe at the castle today (Friday) it will be required to close the sit-in facility again next Friday.

“We continue to live in very difficult times and your support is truly appreciated”, the post said.

Glenarm Castle

Also feeling the impact is Whitehead Railway Museum, where a festive event for next weekend has hit the buffers.

A spokesperson for the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland attraction said: “Unfortunately due to the new government restrictions we will be unable to host our 2020 Santa & Steam experience as planned on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th November but we do hope to reschedule as soon as restrictions ease.”

Next week, the Executive will be introducing a two-week circuit breaker from November 27 until December 11.

Retail NI has slammed this as an “appalling decision” in the run-up to Christmas.

Commenting on the decision to close non-essential retail as part of the circuit-breaker, Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “The Executive has made a decision which will kill small businesses rather than the virus. Christmas has come early for Amazon.

“This appalling decision will be a hammer blow to our already struggling high streets and for thousands of independent retailers forced to close at the most important trading time of the year. Tens of thousands of jobs and small businesses are now at risk with this ill-considered move.

“To make matters worse, this move will allow large supermarkets to continue to sell clothing while forcing independent retailers who sell these products to close”

“In next week we will see a huge rush of shoppers to our high streets which clearly will not help with social distancing. This ill-thought-out move will be absolutely devastating for our economy.”

Northern Ireland Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault commented: “The health of our communities is a priority but without appropriate support for hotels, which have been and continue to be adversely impacted by the move, it could mean ‘lights out’. They just won’t be able to open again.

“To date hotels in Northern Ireland have invested over £5m to ensure their operations comply with COVID-19 health and safety measures.

“Over the summer hotels traded successfully investing in measures to ensure Covid-19 compliance. Infection levels remained under control with the industry operating in a limited but viable manner.

“The sacrifice made by the hotel sector appears to have had no impact on the trajectory of the pandemic and the consequences of a further closure with no trading could be catastrophic.”

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s TUV group leader Councillor Matthew Armstrong blasted what he described as the “Hokey Cokey Executive”.

Cllr Armstrong stated: “Tonight’s (Thursday) decision by the Hokey Cokey Executive sees the worst possible outcome for business. People’s lives and livelihoods have been subjected to the traditional pre-Christmas horse trading at Stormont.

“After repeated assurances that they would be allowed to return to trading, the hospitality sector has been knocked back again while hairdressers, beauticians and other close contact businesses get to re-open for a mere week. Many will question if it is worthwhile opening at all.

“The decision to close churches will exercise many people who have testified to the fact that socially distanced, Covid secure worship is a highlight of their week. This is now denied them without any supporting evidence provided by the Executive.

“After this there will be many who will never trust certain politicians again, regardless of how solemn their promises are. Who could blame them?”

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly described the restrictions as “harsh but necessary”.

Cllr Donnelly said: “The upcoming restrictions announced by the Executive last night are harsh, but necessary, if we are to protect the health service from becoming completely overwhelmed.”

First Minister Arlene Foster stated that the Executive has been presented with the “sobering prospect of our hospitals becoming overwhelmed within weeks”.

“It is clear that a tough, carefully timed, intervention is required to give us the best chance to have a safe and happy Christmas and further into the new year period.

“The Executive has taken the decision to put in place a short, sharp circuit-breaker from Friday November 27 to reset and drive down infection rates right across Northern Ireland.

“Sadly it is clear that a careless minority have significantly undermined the sacrifices of the many.”


Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

Click here to read: New directory to aid Mid and East Antrim’s hospitality sector


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