Business leaders here in Northern Ireland are urging the Executive to give businesses some dates as to when the retail and hospitality sectors will be able to reopen after lockdown.
The Executive Blueprint
Although the Executive has published a blueprint as to how they will proceed there are no definitive dates given in this blueprint. They have not given any dates as they want to be able to react to the coronavirus infection data from week to week, but this does rather leave businesses in limbo and with a great deal of uncertainty.
Clearer Plans Needed For Reopening
Belfast, Derry, Causeway and Newry Chambers are quoted in the Belfast Telegraph saying:
“Our members understand the need for the Executive to be cautious, but we believe they can be clearer on their plans for reopening.
“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.”
And speaking on the fact that many of their members have invested heavily to stay afloat they said:
“They have stretched themselves by using their own reserves to stay in business.
“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.”
Many Businesses Finding It Tough
With non essential businesses closed since just after Christmas many businesses are finding it tough to stay solvent even with the help they have received from the authorities. The rates holiday for businesses has been extended and the furlough scheme is still running too. There has also been various grants over the last 12 months to aid struggling businesses.
As for the blueprint document, the same Belfast Telegraph article states that:
`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.
It focuses on nine key areas – retail, hospitality, education and young people, work, culture, heritage and entertainment, sports and leisure, travel and tourism, worship and ceremonies, home and community.
The stages of restriction begin with lockdown then extend to cautious first steps, gradual easing, further easing, and preparing for the future.`
This lockdown must be the final lockdown as the economy will not stand a reopening followed by another prolonged closure a few weeks down the line, so whatever decisions the Executive take they must ensure they get it right this time.