The owner of a Belfast hair salon has criticised the lack of dates in Stormont’s coronavirus recovery plan as “not good enough”.
Andrew Mulvenna said he is worried the lack of certainty was pushing some hairdressers to flout the rules, both risking further infection spread as well as undermining the profession.
Under the Northern Ireland Executive’s plan announced on Tuesday, “contact retail” such as hairdressers, fitness studios and tattoo salons are set to reopen in step four.
However, no dates have been provided for when each step is likely to happen.
Mr Mulvenna said his industry is “reeling with the enormity” of the impact of Covid-19 closing down salons for months.
He said plans by other governments, including across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, have indicated it could be July before salons can reopen.
The furloughing will reimburse me for 80% of the salaries that I pay, there are still a lot of other bills that have to be paid around my building because I own the buildingAndrew Mulvenna
“Stormont really needs to offer some dates, I find it quite patronising, this carrot dangled in front of us, that they’ll be the ones to decide,” he said.
“They need to give us some dates because we do have to have some sort of planning.
“It closes some doors of being able to try and offer some other types of services to clients, or take some people off furlough and into the salon socially distanced to make up boxes, so there’s all these things floating around but can’t be done until we have some clarity on dates.”
Mr Mulvenna has been operating in Belfast for the last 20 years and recently acquired a larger premises to expand his business over three floors.
He welcomed the announcement of the extension of the furlough scheme but said the business grant he applied for with the Stormont Executive has not come through yet.
“The furloughing will reimburse me for 80% of the salaries that I pay, there are still a lot of other bills that have to be paid around my building because I own the building,” he said.
Mr Mulvenna cautioned others against flouting the rules, warning it would undermine the whole profession as well as risking the spread of infection.
He said some who have not paid tax on their income in the past are now on a basic benefit payment, and more likely to be tempted to break the rules.
“My main concern about all of this is about pushing business into the black market, people who start operating and doing people’s hair, and it’s happening already,” he said.
“I have been contacted by more than 12 people in the last few hours indirectly asking me was there any chance.
“That has triggered people in the last day or two to see if they can get their hair done because they now know they have got at least another seven weeks before it’ll get done.
“The mindset of a lot of people has suddenly changed in the last day or two.
“There is a great worry about that because ultimately it is going to undermine our credibility as a profession, but also it is going to drive up the R rate of transmissibility, and that is our gateway to reopening.”