// Belfast, Derry, Causeway & Newry Chambers urge the Executive to specify when it would reopen retail
// Executive says it will make decisions driven by Covid-19 infection data, not the calendar
// All non-essential retail in Northern Ireland has been shuttered since just after Christmas
Business leaders across Northern Ireland have urged ministers to provide indicative dates for reopening as part of the country’s phased lockdown exit plan.
The Executive has said it would make decisions driven by Covid-19 infection data and has published a blueprint which does not contain specific timings like other UK nations.
Belfast, Derry, Causeway and Newry Chambers have called on the Executive to say when it would reopen the retail and hospitality sectors when ministers review their Covid Recovery Plan tomorrow.
- Wales to “gradually” lift lockdown on non-essential retailers from March 22
- Northern Ireland confirms phased lockdown exit plan
- Scotland to ease lockdown for non-essential retailers from April 26
“Our members understand the need for the Executive to be cautious, but we believe they can be clearer on their plans for reopening,” they said.
“Indicative dates would give businesses the opportunity to plan for a time when they might reopen.
“This would help with decisions around when to restock, bring staff back into the business and accept bookings in the hospitality sector.”
The pandemic has emptied high streets across Northern Ireland. All non-essential retail has been shuttered since just after Christmas.
Stormont recently said it would extend a rates holiday for businesses struggling with the dramatic loss of trade.
A range of other official grants have been paid to firms and the furlough scheme has preserved many jobs.
The business leaders said they appreciated the financial support the Executive has provided but added their members have also invested heavily in measures to protect their staff and customers.
“They have stretched themselves by using their own reserves to stay in business,” they said.
“One year on, it is getting increasingly difficult, and they call on the Executive to give them the clarity they need so they can plan for the future.”
Northern Ireland ministers’ blueprint to reopen society focused on nine areas like retail, hospitality and education.
Each will emerge from cold storage in stages.
The document does not include any target dates and ministers have promised decisions on moving between stages will be based on scientific and medical evidence, not the calendar.
Other UK nations have provided timings on when non-essential retail could expect to exit lockdown and re-open.
In England, that date has been set for no earlier than April 12, while in Scotland it’s April 26.
In Wales, non-essential retail can gradually reopen from March 22 – although most will remain shut and will reopen on April 12, the same as England.
with PA Wires