Commenting on the NI Executive’s decision to introduce a six week lockdown from Boxing Day, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “We have all seen how COVID-19 levels in NI are still stubbornly high and how our NHS is under severe pressure and appreciate the need for action. However, it is also worth noting that cases remained high whilst many retailers and hospitality businesses were closed. Knowing that closing many businesses did not impact on infection rates as hoped for previously, the Executive have once again decided to use more or less the same tactic. Do they expect a different result this time?
When the NI Executive introduced its first so-called circuit breaker back in October, the First Minister stated that “we cannot keep closing the country down” and “that strategy, designed to buy time, is in reality a failure”. The First Minister also stated that “every part of our society must adapt and learn to live with the virus” and the deputy First Minister said that the first circuit breaker would give time to “strategically examine how we can move away from a cycle of lockdowns”. Earlier in October, the Health Minister commented that repeated lockdowns were “not feasible”. Yet here we are again, going round and round and round in a cycle of lockdowns.
That the region is now entering another, even more severe period of restrictions is, by the First Minister’s definition, a massive failure and a reflection of the Executive’s inability to chart a different course with businesses and jobs the collateral damage. What actions are the Executive proposing to take over the next 6 weeks to stave off future lockdowns on the basis that Ministers have themselves admitted that continuing down this path is a failure? And yet again, too many businesses are still waiting for financial support that they were promised when previously placed into lockdown and now those businesses and others need urgent support to survive and save jobs”.