Commenting on the announcement today by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton, “A lockdown with support for staff wages is better than a lockdown without any support, but we should be in no doubt whatsoever that another lockdown would still do profound and perhaps permanent damage to the local economy.

The Chancellor’s announcement today rightly protects staff but doesn’t support businesses which will continue to incur considerable costs to stay alive.  Our Executive needs to consider how it can better help businesses who they force to close with financial assistance that is far superior to that offered to businesses in Derry and Strabane.   

The closure of businesses in the hospitality sector has a knock-on effect into their supply chains.  Companies who supply the food and drink we consume in bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants will feel the consequences too.  Similarly, sectors which aren’t formally forced to close could well find that their custom drops because of wider lockdown restrictions, thus impacting on their viability too.  Clarity is also required as to whether those sectors like the arts, culture and live entertainment venues who remain closed can avail of this new support.  Our economy is an ecosystem.  When one sector is damaged, others feel the pain too.

Continually stopping and restarting large swathes of our economy is simply not sustainable.  It is unlikely to kill off the virus, but it will kill businesses and tens of thousands of jobs.  Belfast Chamber again urges the Executive to resist a lockdown.  Whilst we all understand the enormity of the issues facing them as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, they must be careful not to fatally undermine entire industries, put a huge number of people out of work and cause catastrophic damage to our economy”.