Ministers for Northern Ireland’s devolved government have announced phased plans to take the country out of its current lockdown restrictions.
Yesterday (2 March), the Executive agreed on a final version of the ‘Pathway to Recovery’ strategy, which will focus on reopening key areas of the economy, such as retail and hospitality businesses, in a phased capacity.
Stormont confirmed that decisions to reopen parts of the economy will be led on data-based evidence.
Currently, Northern Ireland’s lockdown is in place until 1 April, with ministers set to review that policy on 16 March.
After this announcement, Wales is the last country in the UK to announce its lockdown exit plan.
Non-essential retail in England will be allowed to reopen by 12 April, with Scotland allowing retail businesses to reopen on 26 April.
Michelle O’Neill, deputy first minister, said: “We must do everything we can to try to make this one the last lockdown, with the underpinning insurance policy that this Executive will take the steps needed to protect the health service.
“Taking all these factors together, we can take some tentative preparatory steps towards the lifting of restrictions. But great care is still needed.”
She added: “That is why the Executive has agreed today a careful, cautious and hopeful approach to existing restrictions.”
Glyn Roberts, Retail NI’s chief executive, said: “Sadly, this falls far short of what is needed for a viable roadmap. It lacks detail, contains vague criteria for moving between the steps/phases and gives no certainty for retailers to plan ahead for reopening
“Accepting that exact dates were not going to be in the document, the very least that could have been included should have been broad timelines to give retailers some idea of the next steps.”
He added: “While this document is disappointing, we will work with the Executive to ensure that our entire retail sector is reopened. We believe that non-essential retail, with the right preparation, can reopen at some point next month.”