While business organisation are welcoming the easing of lockdown, they are still posing key questions to the NI Executive.
FSB reacts to easing of restrictions.
Following the announcement of indicative dates for the re-opening of a number of sectors, FSB has welcomed that clarity has now been provided, but called on the Executive to avoid the sudden halting of support for businesses.
Commenting, Head of FSB Northern Ireland, Roger Pollen said: “After seeking clarity for a number of months on re-opening, we are glad that at last it has been provided. We note that some of these dates are indicative and it is incumbent on us all to continue to keep our guard up to create the right conditions so we can open up of as much of the economy as possible.
“It is regrettable that there has still not been transparency regarding how decisions have been made and what targets have to be achieved in order for easements to be permitted.
“While the dates for re-opening are important, the terms on which businesses re-open are also crucial. We are concerned about reports that pre-booking could be required for un-licensed hospitality; this simply doesn’t reflect how this industry operates.
“With non-essential retail, close-contact services and some elements of hospitality opening soon it is important that they are supported as they re-open.
“Just because the shutters have been lifted does not mean that a business will be in a healthy financial state. FSB has been calling for a ‘buffer zone’ between the re-opening date and the withdrawal of support, to help sustain businesses and consequently employment going forward.
“This buffer zone or tapering could mean the difference between survival or collapse for many businesses that have been closed for over a third of a year.”
The NI Executive Gives Green Light For Hotels To Open, But…
Commenting on the NI Executive’s announcement Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) CEO Janice Gault said: “The hotel industry is going through one of the longest periods of lockdown, currently sitting at 111 days of business closure.
“We feel that we are often portrayed as part of the problem when in fact we are part of the solution. Hotels offer a safe, well-regulated and COVID-19 compliant environment.
“The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, on behalf of members, requested an opening date of no later than the 17 May 2021, to allow the industry to take advantage of the summer season, to satisfy staycation demand and stage weddings.
“Over 1,000 weddings will have been rescheduled, cancelled or staged in a scaled back and unsustainable manner.
“We welcome the news that easements are underway with unlicensed and licensed premises such as restaurants, beer gardens, coffee shops and cafes able to open outdoors on 30 April. Indoor hospitality venues, including pubs and hotels, are then set to reopen on 24 May which is a compromise position but a welcome indicative date. It has been a very difficult day for everyone in the sector with much anxiety and we await the finer details once the final agreement has been outlined.
“The Executive’s decision acknowledges the economic contribution the hotel industry makes to wider society. Indeed, the sector has made a considerable investment ensuring that their premises and their operations are compliant with the regulations.”
Janice Gault added: “The constant narrative of health versus hospitality is indefensible and sets out a binary argument for a situation that is considerably more nuanced and complex.
“Hotels that have been catering for key workers throughout have been adhering to regulations and protecting those who have been involved in the delivery of vital services. The sector has adapted to be able to do this safely.
“The industry is set to face a challenging summer, but the indicative timeline announced today will give some hope for the future.”
Retail NI Welcomes Executive Covid-19 Relaxation.
Commenting on the Executive’s decision to relax Covid-19 regulations, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “It is to be welcomed that non-essential retail, close contact services and hospitality have at long last dates to reopen.
“This is a very significant step forward for the reopening of our High Streets, and our local economy. It is fantastic news for thousands of local small businesses.
“30th April will be a hugely important day and the Executive needs to work with industry groups and councils on the preparation for the re-opening of our High Streets. Public hand sanitisers, Covid marshals and agreed Covid compliance signage for businesses all need to be in place ahead of reopening to reassure consumers that our high streets are safe to return to and also to reduce levels of the transmission of the virus.”