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Reopening: examing the road to recovery for Northern Ireland's economy

The Northern Ireland Executive has outlined a roadmap for the economy to reopen. But a lack of dates and a timeline means many sectors are unable to prepare for when they can get back to business. John Mulgrew looks at the five phases and the reaction from the business community


First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill


This will see the first graduated opening of some additional businesses, but not a major change to those open which are deemed essential, such as food and groceries. Again, those who can work from home are being encouraged to do so, but those that have been unable to can return on a ‘phased basis’. The only change to the retail environment is that large, outdoor businesses, such as garden centres can open. Outdoor and public sport amenities can also be allowed to open.


In the first significant loosening of restrictions for businesses which rely on face-to-face contact, the second phase will see non-food retailers able to open “where numbers are limited and social distancing and other mitigating measures are in place”. With education, and subject to risk assessment and adhering to maximum capacities, there is “provision expanded to cover wider definition of key workers as workplace activity gradually increases”.


The next major step for most businesses will see a phased returning to the office and other workplaces. However, if work can be done from home, the document recommends it should be. As team sports are now allowed there is also a reopening of businesses such as museums, galleries and libraries.


The next level of ‘contact’ retail operations can now start to open their doors. That includes businesses such as hairdressers, gyms and tattoo parlours. Leisure centres and other indoor leisure facilities open, with outdoor concerts on a restricted basis.


The last step will mean all workers can return to work and the remaining sectors open. Remote working is still being encouraged where possible. Now, hospitality firms such as cafes, restaurants and pubs, can open up, subject to risk assessment and with some limitations in place. Also, nightclubs can reopen, and concerts take place on a limited basis.

Ulster Business