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Hospitality and retail need dates

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These are the sectors which have suffered most during the pandemic and certainly some will go to the wall no matter when the restrictions are lifted

These are the sectors which have suffered most during the pandemic and certainly some will go to the wall no matter when the restrictions are lifted

PA

These are the sectors which have suffered most during the pandemic and certainly some will go to the wall no matter when the restrictions are lifted

It is easy to understand the frustration of many sectors of the Northern Ireland economy at the lack of even indicative dates of when they may be allowed to reopen. It is made all the worse by the fact that every other region of the UK has a much clearer roadmap than the province on the way to recovery.

No one denies that the Executive is correct in being cautious about easing restrictions which have now been in place for 80 days. The lack of dates had a certain validity when first announced as the politicians had to be sure that the efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus was having an effect. Now there is no doubt that lockdown, allied to the roll-out of an impressive vaccination programme, has had the desired effect, even if the figures for infections are falling slower than hoped for.

The trend in all figures is downward. There are now only 18 people with Covid-19 in intensive care units in the province and one death was recorded on Monday. Northern Ireland has the lowest number of deaths by population in the UK which is another very encouraging trend, even if every single death is a tragedy for the relatives involved.

As expected, the emphasis has been on getting children back to school, not only for their educational and social development but also for the sake of their mental health.

The return to the classroom has developed with all primary school pupils back in the classroom from next Monday and all post-primary pupils returning on April 12 providing no unexpected spikes in infection become apparent.

Some sports, an extension of click-and-collect to non-essential retail and an easing of the ban on people meeting will take place from April 1 - but that is essentially as far as the Executive is prepared to predict. It leaves the opening of retail and hospitality outlets in the dark about what the future holds.

These are the sectors which have suffered most during the pandemic and certainly some will go to the wall no matter when the restrictions are lifted.

But the rest need dates to aim for. That would be a positive move in that it would encourage the businesses to prepare for reopening, give them hope that their darkest days are almost over and be the greatest indication to society at large that coronavirus can be contained, if not beaten.

These sectors have followed all the rules, spent a lot of money on safety measures and deserve to be treated better. They know everything depends on continued constriction of the virus but the Executive is also squeezing hope out of many of them. That is unfair.

Belfast Telegraph


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