Diane Dodds: Northern Ireland ‘cannot afford' another lockdown

Economy Minister Diane Dodds. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire
Rebecca Black, PA

Northern Ireland “simply cannot afford another lockdown”, the Stormont Economy Minister has warned.

Diane Dodds said last week during Assembly questions that another lockdown would destroy local businesses and today she stated that even the fear of another period of tight restrictions could impact on business confidence.

Further restrictions were reintroduced across the north earlier this month, banning the public from visiting other households indoors.

A recent surge of cases in Derry and Strabane led to speculation by Foyle MP Colum Eastwood that even more restrictions may be announced for that area.

However, chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride cautioned against "acting prematurely", adding a "fairly significant measure has been introduced".

Today, a further 320 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed, bringing the total notified in the previous seven days to 1,702.

Mrs Dodds urged the observance of public health messages to try and stem the spread of coronavirus, and prevent further restrictions.

“We are very concerned about the community transmission of Covid, and of course the health of the people of Northern Ireland is of paramount importance to us, but it is equally important to say that Northern Ireland simply cannot afford another lockdown,” Mrs Dodds told MLAs.

“While we have to look after our health, we also need to learn to work and live knowing that this virus is in our communities.

“Even the fear of another lockdown would impact on business confidence.”

The minister said there had been 9,000 redundancies, warning that the situation could get worse.

“I am saddened that there are restrictions on the hospitality sector, I believe that the hospitality sector has acted responsibly and acted with good faith,” she said.

“Therefore I want to see those restrictions lessened and lifted as soon as we can, but we all have it in our own power to do that. We need to exercise personal responsibility and obey the restrictions.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Dodds said she was delighted to visit golf’s Irish Open, which was held last week in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

She also told MLAs she is currently in talks to bring other major events to Northern Ireland.

“I think there is a really great future for that combination of tourism and sport… and I look forward to Northern Ireland hosting more of these really big events,” she said.

“I have been talking to some of those big events, I am not going to make any announcements today but I think that we have an interesting and exciting pipeline of events that will come to Northern Ireland.”

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