Chamber Vice-President Selina Horshi expresses 'deep frustration' at Christmas restrictions

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Chamber of Commerce Vice President Selina Horshi has expressed the 'deep frustration' of members that for a second Christmas in a row, the Executive has chosen to close businesses once again.

"Nearly two years into the pandemic, the continued cycle of closures and openings is having a hugely detrimental impact on small and independent businesses, local employers, and our wider economy. The uncertainty over how long these latest restrictions will last and what substantial financial supports will be available to businesses worst affected must be addressed as soon as possible," she said.

She was speaking after Executive announced a range of restrictions and guidance that will take effect from Boxing Day ito curb the surge in the omicron variant of COVID-19 in the north.

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The measures include the closure of nightclubs from Boxing Day and seating limits for hospitality venues.

Chamber Vice President Selina HorshiChamber Vice President Selina Horshi
Chamber Vice President Selina Horshi

Said Ms. Horshi: “The hospitality industry, which stands to be one of the sectors worst affected by these latest restrictions, has only just recently adapted to new rules and procedures in the form of Covid vaccine certifications.

"These have already come at substantial cost to a lot of these businesses and they have spent weeks preparing for the introduction of the certifications. The Executive must, therefore, outline the scientific evidence which states that these new restrictions in the form of closures are necessary to quash the threat from the Omicron variant.

Businesses will also be obliged to ensure social distancing is maintained within their premises and mask wearing obligations are to be strengthened.

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“Other decisions taken, including the bolstering of the working from home message and the introduction of legislation to require social distancing in the workplace, will also have a significant impact on businesses of all kinds.

"The Executive must work with businesses and employers to clearly outline what they must do and give them the support they need to put these processes in place. The Executive must also recognise the impact that greater working from home has on other sectors including city and town centre retail, and get financial support out to these high street businesses as soon as possible," said the Chamber Vice President.

Ms. Horshi echoed calls for a funding package to be put in place to help affected businesses make it into the new year.

“It’s wholly unacceptable that ministers have taken these decisions without having a proper and significant financial support package in place which businesses can immediately draw down from. Any delay adds to confusion and anxiety and business owners deserve so much better. The Executive must make clear as soon as possible how it intends to support businesses, and which businesses.

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“We would again encourage people to continue supporting and spending local this Christmas, as well as taking all necessary Covid precautions like wearing a mask when you’re out and about and getting your jabs as soon as you can.”