Covid-19: NI business leaders react to lockdown plan

Covid-19: NI business leaders react to lockdown plan

Representatives from Northern Ireland’s business community have reacted to the announcement of a new lockdown which will begin on 26 December.

Non-essential shops in NI will close from the end of trading on Christmas Eve in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Close-contact services, such as hair salons, will have to shut and pubs, cafes and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway services.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts

Retail NI has said the six-week lockdown will result in a “tsunami of independent retailers falling and thousands more jobs being lost with permanent damage done to our local high streets”.

Its chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “It is profoundly disappointing that the NI Executive had to take this course of action because of non-compliance of individuals and households with the Covid-19 regulations”.

“Independent retailers selling clothes, books and toys will be forced to close their doors without even a click-and-collect option, while large supermarkets will remain open selling those same products.

“Where is the fairness in this?

“It is also extremely concerning that many businesses are still awaiting financial support payments from the last lockdown.”

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster

Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said it was “the news that we have been dreading for some time”.

He said: “We do not welcome it, nor do we want it, but we support the decision to get the virus under control and get the hospitality sector back on its feet again as quickly as possible.

“It is with a heavy heart, but we will work with the government and abide by the decision.”

Mr Neill said the sector now needed “urgent financial assistance”.

He added: “Unfortunately this will sound the death knell for so many who will simply not be able to see through this enforced period.

“The impact on the economy will run into the hundreds of millions, thousands of redundancies and a sector dead on its feet.

“We are appealing for everyone to abide by this decision which has come at such a heavy price so that we never have to experience anything like this again.”

Aodhán Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium

Northern Ireland Retail Consortium Director Aodhán Connolly said the groupo accepted that “non-essential’ retail has to close for a short period to support the efforts that are being made to reduce the R rate”.

However, he said it was vital that shops could reopen at the end of the six-week lockdown.

He said: “We are asking government urgently to provide clarity about the criteria for reopening and to ensure that affected businesses are supported in the coming weeks.

“We also need shoppers to continue to act responsibly in the shopping days that are left until Christmas.

“Wear a face covering in store and when queueing, keep your distance, wash your hands, leave extra time for shopping, avoid peak times and most of all be kind to staff and other shoppers.”

Paul Clancy, Londonderry Chamber chief executive

Londonderry Chamber chief executive Paul Clancy said the lockdown was “yet another bitter blow to our local businesses”.

He said: “Again, traders are forced to shut their doors to customers and at what is traditionally the toughest trading period of the year.

“After nearly a year of this crisis, it is regrettable that the executive does not seem to have any other means to deal with the pandemic other than shutting down the economy over and over.

“Business owners are adaptable and flexible by their nature and will comply with these latest set of restrictions but the executive must ensure that financial support reaches them as quickly as possible.

“Any further delays will result in lost jobs and permanently closed businesses.”

Ciaran O’Neill, managing director of Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Derry

Ciaran O’Neill said the stop-start approach of opening and closing businesses was very bad for consumer confidence and believes it is potentially doing “damage” to businesses in the long-term.

He conceded that ministers at Stormont have a very difficult job, but believes they are failing to recognise the challenges faced by many in the hospitality sector.

Mr O’Neill said he was frustrated that many in the hotel sector are still waiting on financial support from the NI Executive.

He added: “If we are going to go into lockdown we need to return to what we had in March – a complete lockdown.”

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