Fresh call for NI to follow England and set a date for full reopening

There have been fresh calls for Northern Ireland to follow England’s lead by setting a date for the removal of legal limits on social contact.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 7:06 am
A number of coronavirus restrictions remain in place in Northern Ireland

Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared yesterday that, from July 19, life for people in England would return to “pretty much life before Covid”.

The new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, also spoke of the coming changes in an address to the House of Commons yesterday.

But no such date has yet been set for a full reopening in Northern Ireland despite repeated calls for the Northern Ireland Executive to do so from business groups.

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Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts expressed hope that the devolved government here could follow England’s lead.

“I would hope that in Northern Ireland we can begin to think about a date as well,” he told the News Letter.

“I think it would be a good thing if we could aim for a date.

“Obviously we have seen in the past that different governments have moved at different speeds in terms of restricions, but I think it would certainly be very welcome if we could look at a date ourselves.”

His comments follow similar calls from Hospitality Ulster in recent weeks.

Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill told the News Letter yesterday: “Significant progress has been made with the roll-out of the vaccination programme here and we are encouraged to see it pass the two million doses delivered milestone.

“Everything is therefore moving in the right direction for an accelerated lifting of all restrictions that impact on the hospitality sector and we urge the Northern Ireland Executive to focus in on those and expedite the pathway to full reopening.”

He continued: “After so many months of closure, we need to give business owners in the industry every opportunity to get back to a more certain footing and the more defined we can be about dates, the better it will be for their survival and sustainability.”

Meanwhile, Michelle O’Neill yesterday said she hopes the Executive will be able to approve further Covid restrictions being eased this week.

The deputy first minister told MLAs that this could include the reopening of youth services and live music, but said decisions would be informed by medical and scientific advice.

During ministerial question time at Stormont, Ms O’Neill said that some easements of restrictions had had to be delayed because of concerns over the spread of the Delta Covid variant in Northern Ireland.

Last week, the Public Health Agency disclosed there were 612 confirmed or probable cases of the Delta variant detected in all 11 council areas in Northern Ireland.

About half of Covid-19 positive cases sampled in Northern Ireland are now indicative of the Delta variant.

The variant was first identified in India, and is now dominant in the UK.