Business groups express their concerns about the Covid-19 restrictions announced and call for immediate financial support to the business sector.
Business organisations in Northern Ireland have reacted to the announcement from the Stormont Executive on the need to introduce tight restrictions to curb Covid-19 as from Friday this week.
See below comments from the NI federation of Small Business, Hospitality Ulster, Retail NI, NIHF and the NI Chamber of Commerce.
There is a danger that the Covid-19 virus takes further hold in our communities and that is may end up in an uncontrollable, runaway situation where a full lockdown will be eventually be imposed after this period of six weeks is over when the Executive assesses the effectiveness of these restrictions and decides further dramatic action is needed.
FSB says significant restrictions must be followed by substantial support.
Responding to the announcement of new intense coronavirus restrictions affecting businesses, FSB NI Head of External Affairs, Roger Pollen has called for a substantial support package to be deployed immediately.
Commenting, Roger Pollen, said: “Throughout the pandemic we have always said that policy should be led by the evidence, and that businesses are prepared to play their part in efforts to protect public health.
“The restrictions announced this morning will be deeply disappointing for those businesses who have gone above and beyond to put in place substantive measures to keep staff, customers and the general public safe.
“While focus will understandably be on the hospitality sector, which has again borne the brunt of the public health regulations, many self-employed people providing close contact services, such as beauticians and hairdressers are also impacted.
“A significant support package should rapidly be deployed, in a way which recognises the broad range of businesses that have been impacted by these restrictions, including those indirectly affected through the supply chain.
“Many businesses have already used up reserves and taken out loans during the initial lockdown, so cash has been badly depleted.
“To prevent otherwise viable businesses failing, support needs to be developed and distributed rapidly – there is no time to waste.”
Hospitality Ulster Demands Emergency Support Package
Implement emergency financial package and a Government / Industry Covid Response Group NOW demands Hospitality Ulster as sector forced to close for greater good.
The Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster has said that the lockdown measures signed off by the Executive and Assembly today will be a complete disaster if it does not come with an immediate emergency financial package to cover all costs of the sector now that it has been forced to shut.
Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster said: “This is a situation that we have worked so hard to avoid by doing everything in our power as a sector to ensure we are not the cause of the community spread of the coronavirus.”
“The hospitality sector has led the campaign to implement legally enforceable Covid regulations and has taken blow after blow financially as more and more restrictions have been put in place by the NI Executive.”
“Let me be clear, now that this lockdown had been signed off, all costs of the sector need to be covered by the government to ensure our people have food on their tables and as many businesses as possible can be preserved.”
“Unfortunately, it is clear that there will be total business failure for many and a whole host redundancies across the sector. Many businesses do not have the money to pay redundancies and will be forced into bankruptcy when faced with the bill.”
“The Executive must serve to underwrite this decision and take on the financial responsibility for specifically shutting down the hospitality sector. We don’t want to see a financial gesture, but a significant payment made to all those in the sector that have had their means of making a living stripped away from them for the greater good.”
“With hospitality on the front line of this crisis, we are also calling for the immediate establishment of a joint Government / Industry Covid response group led by the two Junior Ministers who have responsibility for the Covid regulations. We cannot take anymore Covid regulations without industry representation at the table.”
“I cannot overstate the seriousness of this situation, tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses are now in free fall.”
Retail NI Reaction to New Executive Restrictions
Commenting on the NI Executive’s new Covid-19 restrictions, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “While we are relieved that the retail sector will be allowed to remain open, we are extremely concerned about the impact of the closure of the hospitality sector will have on reducing footfall for our members and our high streets.
“The First and deputy First Ministers stated they want to urgently meet the retail sector to discuss these restrictions – we look forward to this meeting.
“The Executive also needs to outline what assistance will be given to retailers and other businesses who aren’t legally required to close, but are forced to do so because their numbers of customers and trade dramatically decrease as a result of the restrictions and it quite simply isn’t financially viable for them to remain open”
“There is also a concern that this four-week restriction may only be a prelude to a wider lockdown. Let’s be very clear – there cannot be a return to full lockdown.”
NIHF Says Hotel Sector In Perilous Situation
Janice Gault, Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) CEO, says:
Janice Gault, NIHF CEO said: “The news that the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland will have to close from 6pm this Friday places the sector in a perilous position.
“Having traded responsibly throughout the summer, hotels hoped that they would have had the opportunity to continue trading in a similar manner for the foreseeable future.
“The additional restrictions which have come into force in recent times have brought the viability of hotel trading into question.
“Forecasts from the NIHF have indicated that hotels will already sell 1M less bedrooms than they sold in 2019 and the measures announced today will result in the decimation of one of Northern Ireland’s most buoyant sectors which has invested £650M over the last five years.
“It goes without saying that our primary concerns are the health and well-being of hotel guests and staff.
“The situation is a precarious one with livelihoods under threat and tourism infrastructure being irreparably damaged.
“It is essential that hotels have access to support so that we have an industry to return to, clear guidance of what is expected from them in terms of closure and a pathway back to recovery,” added Janice Gault.
NI Chamber Of Commerce Calls For Urgent Support Measures
Responding to today’s Executive announcements, Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) said: “Intensified restrictions will be a real blow to many businesses who have put hard work and precious cash into ensuring that they are Covid-secure.
“The measures will have a knock-on impact not just on hospitality venues and close contact service providers but on the hundreds of local companies in their supply chains.
“Restrictions are also likely to further suppress demand in other sectors too.
“The support measures implemented must reflect this, providing adequate intervention for all businesses impacted directly and indirectly by the restrictions.