Northern Ireland pubs have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds while feeling the “pain” of the coronavirus crisis, an industry chief has claimed.
Hospitality Ulster head Colin Neill warned the fear must not “become bigger than the actual challenge”.
He described the cancellation of one of Ireland’s Six Nations rugby fixtures due to the virus as a blow to pubs.
There have been two confirmed cases of coronavirus on the island of Ireland, one on each side of the border.
The first person to test positive was a woman in Northern Ireland who had recently returned home from northern Italy.
The second was a male student who attends a Dublin secondary school that has since been closed for 14 days as part of the Republic’s infection-control measures.
Although the name of the school has not been officially released, parents at Scoil Chaitríona in Glasnevin confirmed on social media it was their school.
The decision to call off Ireland’s Six Nations match against Italy was also taken in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. which can cause the severe lung disease Covid-19.
“Obviously, [the Six Nations] is a big draw into our pub sector,” Mr Neill said.
“There is an economic impact there that we would estimate in the hundreds of thousands.
“But it’s important to say to the industry: ‘We have to take this virus seriously but not panic.'”
Mr Neill added that Hospitality Ulster had issued extra guidance to its members about hygiene, including sanitising surfaces like doors and handrails.
“We’re very lucky in the UK – we already have very high hygiene standards because of regulation but we’re reinforcing them,” he said.