Coronavirus: Strong reaction to NIs new lockdown measures

Coronavirus: Strong reaction to NIs new lockdown measures

There has been extensive reaction to the agreement reached by the Northern Ireland executive to extend Covid-19 restrictions from next Friday.

Northern Ireland will face a two-week period of tougher Covid-19 lockdown measures from 27 November.

Business leaders and politicians are among those reacting to the news.

Hotelier and pub owner Bill Wolsey

Hotelier Bill Wolsey said he was “not massively surprised” at the decision to introduce tougher Covid-19 measures in Northern Ireland.

However, he was scathing of the executive who he said “can’t even produce a coherent policy to fight a common enemy”.

Speaking on BBC One’s The View, Mr Wolsey argued the hospitality industry was “the most heavily regulated body”.

“Before lockdown we had the police come into us three times a week and we didn’t get one single complaint, so we don’t think we’re the problem,” he said.

Mr Wolsey said the situation was “hopeless”.

Tina McKenzie, The Federation of Small Businesses

Tina McKenzie, from The Federation of Small Businesses, said the sector had heard little from politicians.

“If you want to look at the best way not to do government, our guys on the hill are certainly giving us a good example of that.

She said “sniping” had created a “lack of confidence, not just within the business community but I think the population as a whole”.

Simon Hamilton, Belfast Chamber of Commerce chief executive

Chief executive of Belfast Chamber, Simon Hamilton, tweeted to say the executive’s decision will “have a catastrophic effect on jobs and livelihood.”

He said there would be “unfathomable job losses” without a multi million pound support package for affected businesses.

“The decision to close retail is probably the biggest boost to online shopping in NI since the invention of the internet,” he said.

“It cannot be understated what damage a decision to close shops at this time will do to jobs.”

Dr Tom Black, chair of NI’s British Medical Association

The chair of NI’s British Medical Association (BMA) said the executive’s prior indecision had put the health service in a “precarious” position heading into winter.

Dr Tom Black previously said re-opening hospitality while infections rates were high would be an “act of vandalism”.

“The executive has had to announce further restrictions tonight because infection rates are still too high, GP practices are still exceptionally busy and our hospitals are either at or above capacity.

“It is therefore imperative that the executive does all it can to support our health service in the run up to Christmas and beyond and that means acting quickly and decisively on the medical and scientific advice presented to them.”

Northern Ireland Sports Forum

The Northern Ireland Sports Forum said it had “deep concerns” stopping sport and physical activity below elite level will have “devastating consequences for the health and wellbeing of the general public and sports organisations”.

“Many of our members are growing anxious that the continued loss of habitual involvement in sport and physical activity will lead to long term challenges for individuals and local communities,” it said in a statement.

The forum added it was “confident” it could continue activity safely in “heavily controlled environments” if allowed.

Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster chief executive of

Hospitality Ulster has called for a “rescue package” for the industry.

Chief executive Colin Neill said the sector had lost faith in the executive.

“We were told that Christmas trading would be saved, that is now gone.

“We have been left with no trade, no hope and a huge amount of redundancies on our hands.”

Glyn Roberts, Retail NI chief executive

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said the decision would “kill small businesses” and give Christmas to Amazon.

“This appalling decision will be a hammer blow to our already struggling high streets and for thousands of independent retailers forced to close at the most important trading time of the year.

“To make matters worse, this move will allow large supermarkets to continue to sell clothing while forcing independent retailers who sell these products to close”

Aodhán Connolly, NI Retail Consortium director

NI Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly said he first heard non-essential retail would close with hospitality at about 19:00 GMT – shortly before the executive announced its decision.

He told The View he had 100 emails already from members wanting to know if they were essential or not, and added the sector had gone “over and above” to protect customers and staff.

“This is devastating because this has been the hardest year in my lifetime for retail.

“In six weeks’ time we are also ending the Brexit transition period so we’re dealing with that and quite simply there is no wiggle room.”

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