Business bodies across Northern Ireland has expressed their fears for their members as a new lockdown is announced.
The NI Executive has announced that it is necessary to go into a further lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus following what Health Minister Swann described as lack of commitment by many people to taking the simple necessary precautions the the NI Executive has been calling for. (See separate article link below).
Newry Chamber Responds to NI Executive Notice of a Lockdown.
Responding to the NI Executive’s decision to introduce a six-week lockdown, the Chief Executive Officer for Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade, Colm Shannon said: “The Executive’s decision is devastating news for the many retailers, hospitality businesses and their suppliers who have been struggling to survive.
“Many businesses were focused on surviving to the end of the year. Now there will be real questions over their future. Job losses will undoubtedly follow the decision to introduce a six-week lockdown.
“If we are to protect businesses and avoid further redundancies, the Executive must immediately revisit the support packages for businesses and ensure it is delivered in a timelier way.
“This must be the last lockdown, and everyone needs to work hard on minimising unnecessary contacts. With hospitality and most retail closed, the focus is now on households abiding by the rules.
“The business community wants to see firm action against those flouting the rules.”
Mr Shannon added: “Retailers and hospitality businesses have played their part by investing heavily in PPE. They have closed when asked to. We must see firm action taken against households who ignore the regulations, otherwise the lockdown will not work. Abiding by the rules will save lives and protect the jobs of local people.
“As a business community we have real concerns about the mental health and wellbeing of business owners and their employees.”
He added that many business owners will worry about whether they will have a business left to open at the end of January. Employees are also concerned about whether they have jobs to return to and could face redundancy.
“It is important that the issue of mental health and wellbeing is not overlooked in the coming weeks and support is provided to help businesses and their employees cope with the added pressures they face.
“It is also important that the Executive uses this period of closure to put a clear plan in place for next year. Realistically, the business community is looking at the period post Easter as a time when we hope we can begin to turn the corner.
“We need support packages in place to keep businesses going until then and a recovery plan for when life slowly begins to return to normal.”
Retail NI Dismayed At Lockdown Announcement.
Commenting on the Executive’s decision to close non-essential retail, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “The Executive has made a decision which will kill small businesses, rather than the virus.
“Christmas has come early for Amazon.
“This appalling decision will be a hammer blow to our already struggling High Streets and for thousands of independent retailers forced to close at the most important trading time of the year. Tens of thousands of jobs and small businesses are now at risk with this ill-considered move.
“To make matters worse, this move will allow large supermarkets to continue to sell clothing while forcing independent retailers who sell these products to close.
“In next week we will see a huge rush of shoppers to our High Streets which clearly will not help with social distancing.
“This ill-thought-out move will be absolutely devastating for our economy,” added Glyn Roberts.
NIHF Says Lockdown
Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) Chief Executive Janice Gault said: “Hotels had hoped to be able to trade through to the New Year within a highly restricted framework but a deteriorating health situation has necessitated a strict lockdown which will have a detrimental impact on the sector.
“The announcement last night of a Boxing Day closure is not unexpected, but it remains very confusing for the hotel sector.
“Christmas is an important time for the hotel industry and one where we welcome guests for a festive experience. They come with their families and enjoy the holiday with us. Despite the current challenges, guests will be very welcome with staff committed to giving them a great experience.
“Since re-opening on the 11th December consumer confidence has been ebbing which has led to cancellations and, for some, limited trading levels which has effectively made business unviable.
“Bookings between Christmas and New Year were relatively healthy and given that a 10.30 pm curfew was in place for New Year levels of trading were reasonable.
“Over the coming weeks, the industry would like to see an efficient, well-managed lockdown which would allow the economy to reopen in a less restricted, orderly and sustainable manner.
“The current stop, start measures have not worked and hoteliers feel that a tighter regime may bring about a quicker recovery. This, coupled with a vaccine, will hopefully allow us to trade in a more sustainable manner in 2021.
“Hotels have made considerable sacrifices over the course of 2020 and remain committed to the health and wellbeing of their staff and guests. A recognition of this loyalty in terms of fiscal support is what the industry urgently needs to ensure that the sector has a chance to survive.
“In the coming year, hotels will need full rate relief, a continuation of VAT at 5% and a well thought out and appropriately funded recovery campaign.
“There has been a promise of further support for closure by way of a large Hospitality Business Grant and we hope that additional support will be made available to cover the considerable costs the sector is incurring.
“Reserves have been eroded with Christmas effectively ended. It is vital that hotels are supported on a meaningful fiscal basis.”