Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has called for coronavirus restrictions on the hospitality industry to be extended amid a row with the DUP.
n a statement, Ms O’Neill said Sinn Fein, UUP, SDLP and Alliance voted in favour of the health minister’s proposals to extend restrictions on Tuesday night, but that the DUP blocked those proposals.
She added: “Last night at the Executive we were warned by the chief medical officer that any easing of the current restrictions would cause ‘excess deaths’.
“The advice was stark and clear – if we don’t keep current restrictions in place for another two weeks, more people will die.
“My priority has been to save lives, protect livelihoods and ensure that our health service would not be overwhelmed by the spread of the virus.”
Ms O’Neill said that coronavirus does not recognise or respect any community and was a threat to all our people.
She added: “The chief medical officer’s advice last night was stark and clear that easing of the restrictions would cause excess deaths.”
Ms O’Neill said the Executive will return today in a bid to find consensus.
She added: “Four weeks on, workers and low-income families are still waiting on financial help promised by the Department of Economy. That delay is unacceptable and needs to be fixed immediately.”
First Minister Arlene Foster said Sinn Fein has questions to answer over its apparent u-turn on coronavirus restrictions.
She said she was “deeply sorry” that after having said the restrictions would come to an end, that the situation had changed and they were now in a position of discussing their extension.
DUP sources claimed Sinn Fein performed a massive U-turn on easing Covid-19 restrictions “under the orders of Dublin Sinn Fein,” which the party completely dismissed.
The first minister said Michelle O’Neill advocated a wide range of easing of restrictions on Sunday and that they would be proposed to the Executive.
“It is a matter for Sinn Fein,” Arlene Foster told BBC Good Morning Ulster.
“Despite the fact there has been no change in the medical advice, none whatsoever – as to why they now are in a situation that they are saying let’s keep haridressers and beauticians closed, let us keep coffee shops on our high streets closed. In the knowledge there will be no change in two weeks’ time and we will be in the same position.
“Any other decision will lead to excess deaths. That is what makes these decisions so difficult.
“I am not going to get into a situation where I say that dying of Covid is more important than dying of cancer, or dying of stroke or diabetes complications.”
She said if it was the DUP in power alone things “would be very different”.
“There are no easy answers. We need to find compromise,” she added.