Newry Chamber of Commerce has issued a statement detailing their concerns regarding the latest six week lockdown, which comes into to force on St Stephen's Day.

Responding to the NI Executive’s decision the Chief Executive Officer for Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade, Colm Shannon said “The Executive’s decision is devastating news for the many retailers, hospitality businesses and their suppliers who have been struggling to survive. Many businesses were focused on surviving to the end of the year.  Now there will be real questions over their future. Job losses will undoubtedly follow the decision to introduce a six-week lockdown.

Hill Street, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

“If we are to protect businesses and avoid further redundancies, the Executive must immediately revisit the support packages for businesses and ensure it is delivered in a timelier way.

“This must be the last lockdown, and everyone needs to work hard on minimising unnecessary contacts. With hospitality and most retail closed, the focus is now on households abiding by the rules. The business community wants to see firm action against those flouting the rules."

The Chamber believe that by investing heavily in PPE and closing when asked to the sector has played its part and called for firm action to be taken against households who ignore the regulations.

Mr Shannon continued "As a business community we have real concerns about the mental health and wellbeing of business owners and their employees. Many business owners will worry about whether they will have a business to open at the end of January and employees are concerned about whether they have jobs to return to. It is important that the issue of mental health and wellbeing is not overlooked in the coming weeks and support is provided to help businesses and their employees cope with the added pressures they face.

“It is also important that the Executive uses this period of closure to put a clear plan in place for next year. Realistically, the business community is looking at the period post Easter as a time when we hope we can begin to turn the corner.  We need support packages in place to keep businesses going until then and a recovery plan for when life slowly begins to return to normal.”

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