Stormont should today outline a faster exit out of lockdown for Northern Ireland

News Letter editorial on Thursday May 13 2021:

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 6:30 am
News Letter editorial

It is shocking, albeit not surprising, that businesses in Belfast think it will be more than a year before the local economy recovers from the damage of Covid.

A Belfast Chamber of Commerce survey of more than 200 business found that a fifth think it will take even longer, more than two years.

Lockdown has led to unprecedented barriers to normal trading.

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The impact of the restrictions have been utterly unfair, with white collar public sector jobs untouched, able to work from home and given pay rises.

Entire industries meanwhile have suffered massive damage, in many cases ruin.

Yet the people who issue the orders are untouched: the bureaucrats, the health officials and the politicians.

There are still very serious questions that are being asked as to whether such an approach was appropriate for a pandemic that has a very low mortality rate, and which worst affects people who are already near the end of their lives, yet the response impacted severely on non Covid healthcare provision for much younger people.

It will be many years before we know the answers to those questions.

In the meantime, Northern Ireland must move faster in its exit from lockdown.

We cannot be the slowest part of the UK to reopen just because the Republic of Ireland vaccine programme is far behind ours.

At the start of lockdown there was no end of complaint about Britain’s approach to the pandemic. Ireland did not hesitate to police the border when it thought it appropriate.

Yet Northern Ireland is, in effect, not allowed to police the border in return, even when we are far ahead on vaccinations.

Stormont should today confirm the May 24 reopening of outlets such as restaurants, and outline a clear route to changes in mixing of households, travel and tourism, including the essential return of free movement within the Common Travel Area.

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Alistair Bushe