Businesses voice concern on lack of 'certainty' in Stormont lockdown exit plan

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by David Young, PA

Businesses have expressed frustration at the lack of dates and timelines in Stormont’s lockdown exit plan.

Many voiced concern at the continued lack of certainty on when they can reopen.

Retail NI, which represents small retailers, said the plan “falls far short of what is needed for a viable road map”.

Chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “It lacks detail, contains vague criteria for moving between the steps/phases and gives no certainty for retailers to plan ahead for reopening.

“Accepting that exact dates were not going to be in the document, the very least that could have been included should have been broad timelines to give retailers some idea of the next steps.

“While this document is disappointing, we will work with the Executive to ensure that our entire retail sector is reopened. We believe that non-essential retail, with the right preparation, can reopen at some point next month.”

Hospitality Ulster said many of their members feared their businesses would not survive to see reopening.

Colin Neill, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “We welcome the activity undertaken by the Executive so far in bringing forward this road map. However, it has been some time in coming and disappointing to see that parts of hospitality have been earmarked to reopen after non-essential retail and with no mention of an additional support package.

Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive 

“There is a genuine fear amongst many in our sector that businesses are going to fail and jobs will be lost at the eleventh hour.”

“We are really frustrated that this pathway shows no dates whatsoever and once again singles out our traditional (wet) pubs for extended closure. How are our pubs supposed to survive, and the industry plan for the re-emergence of the entire sector?”

Mr Neill said the Executive must bring forward an additional package of financial support.

“The Executive has made the decision to keep hospitality closed for longer than any other sector, without any engagement with the industry, despite our repeated calls to connect with us and start the planning process,” he said.

“The Executive must now engage and allow the industry to prepare so that it is in the right shape and has any specification requirements in place so that the reopening phase can be as smooth as possible.

“We understand that there will need to be a gradual easing of restrictions and that this blueprint will be led by data. The progression to reopen and any restrictions should be wholly evidence based.”

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