Belfast Chamber Reaction to Additional Coronavirus Restrictions
Commenting on the announcement that the Northern Ireland Executive is to further tighten coronavirus restrictions, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “Moving again to a lockdown akin to that introduced last March will come as less of a shock to businesses in Belfast given the Executive’s decision to introduce restrictions which have resulted in many businesses having to close since Boxing Day but is still a massive blow and will present huge problems for many. It has been apparent for some days that, given how COVID-19 infection rates have skyrocketed across NI since those measures were introduced over a week ago, the Executive were likely to go further.
Belfast Chamber is deeply concerned that the restrictions introduced here on Boxing Day are not likely be lifted, as originally intended, in early February. We have already witnessed how lengthy lockdowns cause business closures and job losses. Those warnings about large scale redundancies weren’t scare stories but are rather the reality for hundreds of families across Northern Ireland who face a very uncertain future. Businesses in Belfast and right across our region now have to navigate a long, hard winter and our genuine fear is now that another sustained period of restrictions on businesses will do yet further damage to the economy and cause an avalanche of job losses.
Whilst the Executive has taken the additional steps it feels are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is striking that, once again, this latest announcement has not been matched with additional, desperately needed support for businesses to help them through what will be a hugely challenging time for many. What support the Executive has offered has been gratefully received but it has been slow and has often fallen far short of covering the costs businesses continue to incur as they are closed. If, as it appears, many businesses are going to have to remain closed until the vaccine rollout has created sufficient immunity, then the Executive needs to seriously up its game and create sufficient support and protection for the businesses it is keeping closed or else we will see many firms falling by the wayside and the loss of a great many jobs”.