Commenting on the possibility of the Northern Ireland Executive introducing another lockdown, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “With speculation running rife that the Executive are on the verge of taking a decision about the possibility of placing Northern Ireland back into lockdown, there are serious questions for Ministers regarding the impact any choice they make will have upon the economy and jobs. Before taking a decision that has the potential to set our economy back decades and affect the livelihoods of workers all across the region, Ministers need to consider and answer the following questions:
- How many businesses do they believe will close as a result of another lockdown or so-called circuit breaker and how many jobs will be lost and what are the Executive’s plans to help the economy recovery and find new work for those affected?
- What support will the Executive offer businesses to deal with the running costs they will continue to incur if they are forced to close and what assistance will be given to businesses who aren’t told to shut but are part of the supply chain of those that are or see their footfall slump because of the restrictions and are therefore going to be severely impacted too?
- What is the evidence for targeting certain sectors like hospitality for stricter restrictions and a possible lockdown when we have been told in recent weeks that social gatherings such as house parties are the problem?
- What guarantees will the Executive give that any lockdown will only be for a few weeks and also what assurances can be given that if businesses are forced to close for a period, they will be able to reopen without further restrictions?
Whilst we all appreciate that the situation with the virus has taken a turn for the worse and that action is required, the Executive must equally consider the wider and longer term impacts on society, our mental health, jobs and the economy of the choices before them.
Until a vaccine is available, it is clear that whatever measures the Executive introduce, they won’t kill off the virus but the inadvertent effect of their decisions in coming days could be to kill off many, many businesses and lots and lots of jobs with them, affecting thousands upon thousands of families all across the region.
The Executive faces some difficult decisions but surely they know that stopping and restarting large swathes of our economy again and again and expecting there to be no damage, no business closures, no job losses and no uncertain futures for many families is foolish. Another lockdown with insufficient support and without a clear path out should be avoided at all costs”.