There have been calls for the Northern Ireland Executive to get ready to relaunch the furlough scheme if the data from the Omicron virus gets increasingly concerning, as it seems to be doing on a daily basis at present. First Minister Michelle O`Neill urged them not to wait until the government at Westminster acted, but be pro-active and have the furlough scheme ready to be rolled out if further restrictions are required.
Decisions Will Have To Be Taken
The Executive is due to be updated on the latest data pertaining to the Omicron virus tomorrow (Dec 16th) and the deputy First Minister knows that decisions will have to be taken and hopes that they will be swift and decisive.
In the Belfast Telegraph, O`Neill is quoted on the matter, saying:
“We shouldn’t be held to ransom until England decide to act,” said the deputy First Minister.
“They have acted too slow many times through the pandemic, I am not prepared to wait for that.
“Of course we are looking at our own resources but I am asking the Treasury to stand up the furlough scheme again today, that needs to be done so, if we need to reach for it, it’s there and available to us.”
The Treasury has promised there would be additional financial support to the regions to cope with the impact of the Omicron virus and to aid the speedier roll-out of the booster vaccination programme.
Vital That Financial Support Is There
In the same article DUP First Minister Paul Givan talked about the extra resources that may be needed to deal with the latest Covid related situation, saying:
“We’ve got a January monitoring round coming up, what implications could Covid have in terms of the considerations around that, that’s something I’ve already been raising,” he said.
“So whether it’s money for Treasury or whether it’s financial support that we need to look at within our own resources, because hospitality in particular are saying they have had implications over the past number weeks as a result of the new Covid passport scheme and if there were any further restrictions it’s vital that there has to be financial support for those sectors who may be affected by that.
“But I want us to get to a place where we’re not having those sorts of restrictions and closures because I want society to be kept open but to do that safely, but we need to make sure there’s financial support if there were to be other restrictions.”
Whether the money being made available by the Treasury is in the form of a loan or money given freely is not clear yet, but is something that will be in the next few days. It would certainly be a blow to Stormont if the financial support does turn out to be a loan. The two things that we all want is first to keep as many people safe from the virus and severe health problems as possible, but also to have society and business operating as normally as possible within certain guidelines. Let us hope a balance can be found to do both.