Business leaders voice frustration over latest lockdown measures

Hairdressers and barbers were among those able to reopen on Friday. Credit: Pacemaker

The hospitality sector has voiced its frustrations over the latest coronavirus lockdown measures in Northern Ireland.

Many businesses, such as cafes and hairdressers, were able to reopen on Friday after a previous circuit-breaker came to an end.

However they will have to close to customers again on 27 November as part of a new, stricter lockdown agreed by the Executive.

These measures will include the closure of non-essential retail stores, hospitality, close-contact services, leisure and entertainment facilities and places of worship.

It will last for two weeks up to 11 December.

Business leaders have reacted angrily to the latest developments and have called for more support to be made available.

Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster said "all trust in the Executive by the hospitality sector has been wiped away".

He added: "We were told that Christmas trading would be saved, that is now gone.

"There is a huge amount of anger right across the hospitality industry. We have been left with left with no trade, no hope and a huge amount of redundancies on our hands."

Simon Hamilton from the Belfast Chamber tweeted: “Many businesses have said to me that they feel they’d have been far better off being told they’d have to remain closed for this long weeks ago rather than being repeatedly given reopening dates that haven’t been realised.

“Their trust in this Executive is now at rock bottom.”

Janice Gault from the Hotels Federation said: “The health of our communities is a priority but without appropriate support for hotels, which have been and continue to be adversely impacted by the move, it could mean ‘lights out’. 

“They just won’t be able to open again.”

Aodhán Connolly from the NI Retail Consortium said: “The closure of non-essential retail during what is our golden quarter is a huge blow to retailers already feeling the squeeze of decreased footfall and increased costs.

“November and December are peak trading months and millions of pounds per week will be lost in sales during what should be our busiest period. 

“It is vital therefore that retail is able to trade again as soon as possible.”

The Executive says schools and childcare centres can remain open during the latest restrictions, while a strict work from home message is also in place.

Meanwhile the closure of places of worship - except for weddings, civil partnerships and funerals - has been described as "a great disappointment".

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said: "The unexpected news announced late last night that churches across Northern Ireland are to close for two weeks from 27 November has come as a great disappointment, and is contrary to the assurances given to faith groups at a meeting just last week at which we were praised for our attention to safety and public health.

"The restrictions will coincide with the beginning of the holy season of Advent, a sacred time of preparation for Christmas.  

"In speaking about 'saving Christmas', I urge the Executive to accept that for many people a 'meaningful Christmas' is about more than shopping, eating and drinking.  Spiritual preparation is essential."

A further 12 deaths and 369 cases of Covid-19 were reported by the Health Department on Friday.