Covid-19: NI business leaders call for economy to reopen

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All non-essential retail has been closed since last FridayImage source, PACEMAKER
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Many businesses were closed by the NI Executive's restrictions which began on 26 December

Hundreds of business leaders and owners from across Northern Ireland have signed a letter calling for the economy to reopen.

The letter, addressed to the first minister and deputy first minister, is signed by 407 business representatives.

It renews calls for a "proper timetable plan" to rebuild the economy.

Those who have signed the letter said they want to avoid the devastating mental health impact that flows from high levels of unemployment.

Many businesses were closed by the Northern Ireland Executive through restrictions which began on 26 December 2020.

The businesses said they want to secure jobs and stave off a "jobs and economic catastrophe" that they fear will "reverberate" for years to come.

The tone of this letter shows us that some business owners are feeling exhausted.

Not just financially but also emotionally.

There is an implicit acknowledgment that the Executive will continue to be guided primarily by its scientific and medical experts when it comes to the pace of reopening.

But there is a renewed plea for firmer reopening plan with clear dates, something which the businesses say can help bring "hope and some certainty".

In the letter, business leaders said they were "increasingly anxious" that without a timely reopening of the economy, many employees who are on furlough could be made redundant.

"Our plea to you both as leaders of our region is to work with us to make that happen as soon as safely possible," it states.

"Businesses need both hope and some certainty. Show us that our combined efforts are being rewarded with a proper, timetabled plan for reopening.

"We want to avoid the devastating mental health impact that flows from high levels of unemployment and avert a looming jobs crisis that will hit households in every constituency in NI."

The letter ends with business leaders calling for an opportunity to discuss their concerns with the first minister and deputy first minister in more depth.