// Northern Ireland economy minister Diane Dodds calls for the publication of dates for the reopening of retailers
// Northern Ireland is the only home country in the UK to have not set out reopening targets
// Its Executive said last month that it would make decisions driven by Covid-19 infection data – not dates
Northern Ireland’s economy minister has called for the publication of dates for the reopening of all businesses, including non-essential retailers, following the latest lockdown.
Some schoolchildren and some outdoor activities such as golf have returned in the country but non-essential retailers and services remain closed.
Northern Ireland is the only home country in the UK to have not set out reopening targets, with its Executive stating last month that it would make decisions driven by Covid-19 infection data – not dates.
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- Scotland updates lockdown exit plan – some non-essential shops to reopen April 5
Non-essential retailers in England and Wales are set to reopen from Monday next week, while in Scotland the reopening date has been set for April 26.
Yesterday, Northern Ireland economy minister Diane Dodds said she submitted papers with reopening dates to the Executive.
“I would like to see the Executive publish a timeline of dates,” she told Cool FM.
“I think it is time to give businesses clarity and certainty to help them to plan, to order in stock, to do all the kinds of things that they need to do to bring staff back off furlough.
“The papers I have sent in to the Executive give outline timeframes.
“It is for the Executive, given health advice, to choose that particular pathway but I think it is time that we looked at the negative impacts of lockdown on the economy, the negative impacts on mental health, the negative impacts on those people who are on low pay and currently on furlough on 80 per cent of that pay.
“The cost of lockdown is enormous for the economy, our claimant count has doubled in the last year, we need to get ahead with reopening so we can avoid further damage, start to grow the economy again and rebuild our economy.”
First Minister Arlene Foster said Northern Ireland needed to “move out of where we are at present and into a risk assessed place”.
“We need to rebuild and recover in a very fast way,” she told an In Conversation online event with Institute of Economic Affairs director general Mark Littlewood.
“Yes, we can do things differently, we’ve learned from people working from home, working remotely and that is something we now know can happen.
“Let’s use that information to build back stronger and build back in a way which us sustainable for the 21st century.”
Foster also spoke of her fears about the “other harms” of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I fear that we will have a mental health epidemic when we come out of this, I don’t say that lightly, it’s something that we’ve been trying to plan for in terms of services,” she said.
Dodds’ comments were welcomed by Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton.
“Businesses that have been closed now since Boxing Day desperately need to reopen but they also need sufficient notice so that they can buy in stock and bring staff back from furlough and dates will give them some certainty to plan ahead,” he said.
“Hopefully, the other parties in the Executive support the minister’s proposals and agree to reopen shops, close contact services and the hospitality, leisure and tourism sector and give us the best possible chance of averting a serious jobs crisis.”
with PA Wires