NI Executive decision ‘will kill small businesses, rather than the virus’ - Retail NI

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Organisations representing local businesses have expressed deep concern over the new 14 day restrictions to be introduced in the mouth of Christmas.

Derry’s Chamber of Commerce said the measures will come as a “serious blow” to local traders, many of whom have already been closed longer than elsewhere in the north.

Retail NI meanwhile was scathing in its criticism warning: “The Executive has made a decision which will kill small businesses, rather than the virus. Christmas has come early for Amazon,”

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The decision by the Executive on Thursday night will see restrictions now eased for a week and many businesses reopening before a stricter lockdown begins, with all retailers deemed non-essential to be closed from next Friday November 27, along with churches, gyms and play facilities.

Ferryquay Street in Derry city centre. DER1720GS - 028Ferryquay Street in Derry city centre. DER1720GS - 028
Ferryquay Street in Derry city centre. DER1720GS - 028

The move was agreed following weeks of contention over a way forward round the Executive table as it tried to grapple with how to bring the stubbornly high incidence rate of the virus in many areas under control.

Reacting to last night’s announcement by the Executive of strict new Covid-19 measures, Chief Executive of the Derry’s Chamber of Commerce Paul Clancy said: “This news will come as a serious blow to businesses, particularly those in the North West that have been closed now for seven weeks.

“Whilst we understand the reason for further restrictions, it is hard to fathom why businesses had been led to believe they could be open and trading in time for the run up the Christmas. Particularly when we are told that the evidence was there from scientific advisors pointing towards an increase in infection rates.

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“Businesses have played by the rules and followed the restrictions, but we cannot keep returning to this cliff edge. These decisions should have been made last week but now we are in the absurd situation that some businesses will open tomorrow just for a matter of days before they are locked down again.

“Whilst the Executive engages with medical and scientific advisors, they need to engage in a more structured way with business organisations too. Working with businesses would help garner more understanding and support for their decisions, whilst allowing businesses to forward plan.

“We urgently need to see a strategy that will stop this eleventh hour approach to Covid regulations and put in place financial support measures to get businesses through what will be one of the worst Christmas periods in living memory.”

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts was deeply critical of the Executive.

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He said: “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.”