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Editor's Viewpoint

Dangers still exist on coronavirus lockdown roadmap

Editor's Viewpoint


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Members of the public in Belfast City centre during the outbreak. Credit: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Members of the public in Belfast City centre during the outbreak. Credit: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Members of the public in Belfast City centre during the outbreak. Credit: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Easing the lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland, even in the slightest way, requires the wisdom of Solomon, the foresight of a clairvoyant and the ability to balance of a high wire daredevil. Every deviation from the current stay at home, stay safe advice will have consequences but the province cannot be preserved in aspic for ever.

Today the Executive at Stormont will unveil its roadmap for the months ahead. It will not be a precise route - for example, there will be no dates to signpost when changes will come into force - and it has been made clear that lockdown, apart from nuanced changes, will remain in force until the end of this month.

The compelling necessity to protect health as much as possible is obvious, but it is becoming clear that there are also compelling economic reasons why some kind of normality has to return as soon as the scientific advice gives a possible the green light.

Of course, every relaxation will come with the caveat that if the infection and death rate starts to spike again, then the lockdown clamps go back on.

While there will be a lot of competing demands of the Executive, there is one common necessity. Whatever the five parties agree to do must be spelled out in crystal clear terms. This is no time for imprecision in language or loopholes that could be exploited and lead to serious problems.

The Executive, like the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, has diverged from England in keeping the stay home, stay safe message but its reliance on the Treasury in London to underwrite economic support funding means it cannot ignore the plight of industry and commerce.

Westminster is making it clear such funding in the UK must end sooner rather than later and that can only lead in one direction - a return to work where at all possible.

Northern Ireland's economy - always imbalanced by over-reliance on the public sector - has suffered more and fallen further than any other region, according to an Ulster Bank expert.

Our report highlighting what those working in various sectors feel must be done to kick start the economy shows the depth of the problem and why it could take years to get back to 2019's levels of activity.

But the death of an employee at the Moy Park poultry processing factory from coronavirus shows the dangers that still exist in the community and the dilemmas the Executive faces.

Belfast Telegraph