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Editor's Viewpoint

Welcome steps forward for city and town centres as more retailers lift the shutters, but we must remain on guard

Editor's Viewpoint


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'The very fact that a number of non-essential shops were open gave a great psychological boost after weeks when city and town centres were eerily deserted'

'The very fact that a number of non-essential shops were open gave a great psychological boost after weeks when city and town centres were eerily deserted'

'The very fact that a number of non-essential shops were open gave a great psychological boost after weeks when city and town centres were eerily deserted'

Northern Ireland retailers and the public have taken welcome steps forward with the opening yesterday of non-essential shops, though strictly in compliance with social distancing and other essential measures to combat the coronavirus. This, however, is only a start, and much more needs to be done before we reach even a semblance of the normality we had before the lockdown.

People have cautiously welcomed the latest developments, though understandably the realities of the pandemic era have made shopping an entirely new experience.

This includes strict social distancing, with blue-arrow signage, hand sanitiser, Perspex screens, heavily protected staff and, in some places, the inevitable queues these restrictions will continue to bring.

There is also less browsing than before, and little opportunity to savour a coffee break, which is for many an integral part of the shopping process. However, the very fact that a number of non-essential shops were open gave a great psychological boost after weeks when city and town centres were eerily deserted.

The reopening of shops is also a boost for business owners and staff in a place where the retail sector accounts for over 15% of employment. The Stormont Executive clearly felt it was safe to help restart the local economy, while keeping a wary eye on the state of the pandemic.

But this is a matter of one day at a time, and yesterday's experience will encourage more retailers and shoppers to look forward to more outlets opening next week.

Success breeds success, and the growing confidence will help banish the memories of the dark days since the lockdown began.

However, the development of this confidence may take longer than some people might have thought, though given what we have all been through, a sense of caution is a good thing in the circumstances.

The deadly pandemic is still out there, and we must all stay on guard.

Belfast Telegraph