Belfast Chamber has today called on the NI Executive to take a decision this week to set dates for the reopening of the economy. The organisation, which represents over 700 businesses in Belfast, made the call after it was revealed that more than one million COVID-19 vaccinations had been administered in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in advance of this week’s Executive review of its lockdown restrictions, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “Businesses in Belfast and across the region are looking to this Thursday’s review with the hope that the Executive will set out clear dates for the reopening of large parts of our economy which have been closed now for nearly four months since Boxing Day. They are hopeful that this week will bring some much-needed good news.  Their optimism comes from the fact that the Economy Minister has proposed reopening to her Ministerial colleagues and also because the health situation is clearly improving to the point where ending the restrictions is more than justified and arguably overdue.

Just this weekend we have learnt that more than one million vaccinations have now been administered in NI. This is an incredible achievement. Furthermore, key indicators such as our 7 day infection rate has fallen dramatically in recent weeks and so too have the number of hospitalisations and those occupying ICU beds. This all bodes well and is surely sufficient progress for the Executive to follow the example of England, Scotland and Wales and begin reopening retail, close contact services, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses.

Business owners and their staff will watch jealously as their counterparts in England reopen this week. They are wondering why, when the health situation here is comparable or even better than in Great Britain, they aren’t also reopening. They are worried about what further delay in reopening will mean for jobs and the future of their businesses. The Executive must not miss the opportunity its review this week gives to set dates for reopening these beleaguered businesses, give them some hope and allow them to safely start trading again”.