// Northern Ireland economy minister Diane Dodds says businesses need to reopen ASAP
// Northern Ireland has been in lockdown since December and is the only place in the UK without a target date to reopen
// England and Wales have lifted lockdown on non-essential retail, while Scotland is planned for April 26
Northern Ireland’s economy minister has said businesses in the country, including non-essential retailers, need to reopen as soon as possible following the latest lockdown.
There have been some minor relaxations of the strict rules which have been in effect in Northern Ireland since December but most businesses remain closed.
Diane Dodds said a number of sectors in the economy have been “terribly impacted” by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Shoppers flock to high streets as England & Wales exit lockdown
- “Behave responsibly” as non-essential retail reopens in England, PM says
- “Reopening means respecting shopworkers”, BRC & Usdaw urge
The Executive is set to meet tomorrow to discuss further relaxations with indications that reopening dates for various sectors may be announced.
It comes as shoppers flocked to high streets across England and Wales after lockdown on non-essential was eased earlier this week, while Scotland’s lockdown exit is slated for April 26.
Northern Ireland’s lockdown exit plan has been driven by data, rather than target dates.
Asked in the Assembly on Tuesday whether she was planning any additional support schemes for businesses, Dodds said the best thing would be for them to be able to reopen as soon as possible.
“Whilst grant support has been a lifeline for many businesses, it cannot last indefinitely, the best way to support businesses is to get them operating again,” she told MLAs.
“I am of the view that the safe reopening of businesses should happen as soon as possible.
“They need the ability to plan and that is absolutely hugely important.
“We will of course continue to support and sustain business but reopening is key to making the economy work.
“Many of those businesses, particularly retail, really need to see that date, they need to see that timeline … many of them are just getting in spring stock.”
Asked what reasons were being voiced against the reopening of society, Dodds responded: “I wouldn’t want to pre-empt any executive discussion or discuss the business of the executive but our community here in Northern Ireland has suffered enormously through Covid.
“So of course there is a lot of nervousness but we have a tremendous vaccine rollout programme, we have transmission rates that are now very low and we cannot keep people locked down in their homes.”
Dodds published an economic recovery action plan for Northern Ireland in February, but warned the recovery will not be completed in one year alone.
with PA Wires