Returning workers to offices is vital to bring back high street footfall, Retail NI has said, while welcoming progress towards that goal with the latest relaxation of lockdown restrictions announced yesterday.
Measures agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive, but subject to final approval on July 22, include making mask wearing in places of worship optional from July 26. The Executive will consider removing the requirement in all settings at a meeting on August 12.
A requirement for social distancing during outdoor activities is to end, and reduce to one metre for indoor settings, on July 26.
Travel restrictions will be relaxed for some, including the fully vaccinated, while conferences, exhibitions and music venues will be permitted to reopen under certain limitations. Restrictions around the number of people and households in private homes and gardens will also be relaxed.
“While there will be some disappointment that we are not moving faster, these decisions do give us an outline of a roadmap toward the full reopening of our economy and a return to some sort of normality,” said Glyn Roberts, chief executive, Retail NI.
“We need to see the Executive work with the business community to achieve the safe return of staff to offices and workplaces and provide indicative dates to achieve this. This reopening will be important to boost footfall for our members and high streets as a whole.
“It is vital that we all play our role in encouraging full vaccination and containing the spread of the virus as we hopefully approach the beginning of the end of this pandemic.
“Retail NI is disappointed that the roll out of public hand sanitiser units in our town centres and high streets has been virtually non-existent outside of Belfast City Centre. This needs to happen if we want to reduce transmission of the virus and provide confidence to shoppers.”