Stormont ministers face renewed calls over timeline for leaving lockdown

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Stormont ministers have faced renewed calls for a timeline for emerging from the coronavirus restrictions.

The retail industry welcomed the “risk-based and clear” vision set out by Northern Ireland’s First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, represents large retailers like supermarkets.

He said his members are working hard to get ready to reopen safely, putting in place the necessary social distancing and hygiene measures to protect customers and staff.

“We welcome visibility on the route out of lockdown but we will need to see a timeline to allow retailers and our supply chains to prepare,” he said.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, which represents small and medium-sized firms, said: “We welcome that reopening of non-food retail is included as a key step; however, what those businesses will need is a date to plan for.

“The plan for England includes early June as a target date for those retailers to reopen and we believe this is achievable for Northern Ireland with appropriate social distancing.”

The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the blueprint represented a significant step forward.

Chief executive Ann McGregor said: “The absence of dates means that planning ahead will be a challenge for businesses of all sizes.

“Businesses share the Northern Ireland Executive’s ambition to see more people return safely to work over the coming weeks – and they will do everything they can to protect employees and customers, maintain social distancing and operate successfully.

“They now need to see the Executive’s plan supported by clear guidance. It is imperative that companies have detailed advice on what will need to change in the workplace, including clarity on the use of PPE, so that they can make plans to reopen safely.”

Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland director, said putting people’s health first and taking a flexible approach to the easing of lockdown measures is the only way to restart the economy.

“Getting Northern Ireland back to work in a way that prioritises safety will minimise the impact on livelihoods from this pandemic,” she said.

“It must be done gradually, based on science, to retain public confidence.

“Moving too far, too fast could set back the economic restart.”

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