Business leaders across Northern Ireland are calling for the Executive to release the dates they expect to lift restrictions. This comes in the wake of the Executive’s Pathway to Recovery plan, the region’s way out of the pandemic era.
Leaders of the Chambers of Commerce in Belfast, Derry, Newry and Causeway have stated, through a joint statement, that guiding dates would allow businesses to prepare better for the inevitable return to work expected to come this summer.
The statement expressed the concerns felt by business owners across the country, Our members are at the heart of our communities employing thousands of people in the retail and hospitality sectors. Most of our businesses have seen little trade in the past year and there is a real need for the Executive to give them hope and confidence for the future.”
Despite the Executive’s welcome financial support for businesses forced to close just after Christmas in the current lockdown, the Chambers claimed to have invested heavily in means to protect customers and employees alike; all they really need is an idea as to when they can put their services back into action.
The Executive’s Pathway to Recovery plan won’t see non-essential retail, office work, hotels and B&Bs, leisure centres, indoor visitor centres, and food & alcoholic drink premises reopen with mitigating until Phase Three.
Whilst this information is useful, no one quite knows when Phase Three will come into being. Northern Ireland’s harsh approach to the fight against Covid-19, combined with the Executive’s dateless approach to recovery, has left many clueless as to when exactly a Northern Ireland normality will come into existence again.
Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann has stated that the Executive’s plan is based on scientific data and not target dates. Swann believes it’s better to be “too cautious than reckless”.
The main priority, at the moment, of the Executive is the Covid-19 vaccination effort of which the country is “outstripping” what was expected.
Mr Swann has not received the wholehearted support of Northern Ireland politicians, with Sammy Wilson MP labelling the Minister a “poodle”, held to ransom by the scientific data on which the Executive’s recent exit strategy is based.
Currently, as of March 15th, 2,098 people have died following a positive Covid-19 test, 19 of which occured in the last seven days.
Additionally, 621,462 first doses have been administered of the various vaccines available in the UK with 50,052 having received their second does also. This comes with the news the UK Government has agreed to deploy 100 members of the Armed Forces in Northern Ireland to support the vaccination effort.