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We will need more than £150m in Treasury funds if furlough is to return, warns Sir Jeffrey

Economic impact of restriction measures will have to be considered, says DUP leader

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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has warned additional; Treasury funds will not cover furlough costs for Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has warned additional; Treasury funds will not cover furlough costs for Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has warned additional; Treasury funds will not cover furlough costs for Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the Government needs to consider reintroducing the furlough scheme if new restrictions are announced, warning the additional Treasury funds to help Northern Ireland with Covid is “not enough”.

"If we are moving towards more restrictive measures, then obviously we can't consider that in a vacuum," the DUP leader said.

"We have been saying to the Government at Westminster, if we are getting into a situation where people are not going to be able to be at work because of the pandemic, then clearly we can't have a situation where people's family finances are undermined, where they are unable to provide for their loved ones.

"We will need a furloughing scheme in those circumstances. We don't know yet if that is the situation we are now heading into."

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Speaking on Good Morning Ulster on Monday, the DUP leader stressed any introduction of restrictions needed to be balanced with the financial impact of such measures to curb the spread of Omicron.

First Minister Paul Givan has previously insisted that Northern Ireland “cannot afford” another lockdown.

"Obviously we are very concerned about the current situation. I have been speaking to the First Minister on a daily basis, we have been keeping in touch with the Government at Westminster,” he explained.

"We are endeavouring to co-ordinate our response here in line with what the UK Government is doing in England.

"We are somewhat behind England in terms of the spread of the Omicron variant, but there is no doubt that the spread of this infection is going to rise significantly.

"The Executive will meet on Wednesday to decide on further measures, and at the moment we are in discussions with the Department of Health and the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser about what further restrictions might look like.

"Obviously when considering something as serious as lockdown it is not just a question of what are the measures we need to take to protect the population, but also what impact does that have on the economy if we have lockdown."

It comes as the chief medical officer says that Omicron could be the most dominant variant in NI by Christmas.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has said that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 will hit Northern Ireland "like a tonne of bricks".

She warned of up to 30,000 new cases a day in the "worst-case scenario".

There are 1,281 confirmed Omicron cases in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is to receive another £75m from the UK government to help tackle the spread of Covid-19.

It follows talks between the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the devolved nations for increased funding as the Omicron variant continues to spread.

Earlier this week, the Treasury announced £75m for NI's health service, bringing the total to £150m after Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed a £75m package last week, bringing the total to £150m

The Department of Finance, however, said that it was mostly not new money and that £50m already featured in Stormont's spending plans.

On Sunday night, the Treasury announced it was doubling the amounts channelled to the devolved administrations.

Sir Jeffrey, however, insisted the amount “doesn’t even touch the sides” of what is needed to fund the return of furlough.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's Covid booster vaccination programme has opened to over 18s who received their second dose at least three months ago.

Ministers are meeting on Monday and Tuesday informally, ahead of a scheduled Executive meeting on Wednesday, when they are expected to announce details of how they plan to curb the spread of the variant.

However, Mrs O’Neill said action could be announced earlier than Wednesday if necessary.


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