Speaking today about comments in the media by NI Executive Ministers regarding the lifting of restrictions or the introduction of further lockdowns, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “Belfast Chamber supports the comments by the Economy Minister that people and businesses in Northern Ireland should be afforded the certainty of a date when most, if not all, of the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19 are lifted. Businesses in Belfast and right across our region look enviously at their counterparts, sometimes colleagues in the very same company, who are open and trading almost as normal across the rest of the U.K. As the Republic of Ireland also edges towards a lifting of restrictions, the contrast becomes even starker.

Minister Lyons’ comments show an appreciation of the pressure many businesses and their staff are still under and offers them and the whole of society a real sense that we are indeed moving towards a return to normality. This is exactly the kind of certainty Belfast’s business community needs after an incredibly challenging 18 months. What we absolutely don’t need is yet more talk about circuit breakers or lockdowns. For businesses who have reopened, who’ve started employing staff again and have been trying to trade after the turmoil of the last year and a half, speculating about further lockdowns is deeply depressing and creates unneeded uncertainty at a time when we should be trying to offer them hope. Aside from being a backward step societally and economically, it isn’t clear how the NI Executive would be able to properly compensate businesses here that another lockdown would close without financial support from the U.K. Government that doesn’t appear to be coming.

Charting a course through COVID-19 has been an immense challenge for the Executive that they have all too often struggled with. What businesses in Belfast and across NI need is some certainty and hope not confusion and negativity”.