The time is now right to take the next steps to rebuild our economy safely.
That was the key message from Economy Minister Diane Dodds as she published her outline plan for economic recovery.
Minister Dodds said:
“The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on our economy. Each month of shutdown is akin to a large recession.
“The longer people are removed from the labour market, the greater the risk of long-term scarring on our economy and society.
“We need to take action now to help the economy recover. This will be gradual and in stages.”
‘Charting a course for the economy: our first steps’, which has been approved by the Executive, is the first in a series of publications from the Department for the Economy looking at how to move forward from the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The steps build on ‘Coronavirus: Executive Approach to Decision-Making’ – the Executive’s five-stage plan to come out of lockdown. They are:
building confidence in the construction and manufacturing sectors continuing to move out of lockdown while staying safe and working safe
continuing to emphasise and promote the trends for home working for businesses in the financial, professional services and IT sectors. Those who can work at home should continue to do so
extending Step 1’s relaxation of the restrictions on garden centres to include other outdoor non-food retailers such as new and used car dealerships and large machinery retailers. This has provisionally been agreed to start from 8 June
opening non-food retail with lower frequency retail activities and/or larger store areas such as those selling household electrical appliances, mobile phones and furniture stores, also now agreed provisionally from 8 June as part of Step 2. This will only apply where outlets have direct street access or direct access within a retail park.
At every stage the Department will work with the Minister for Health to ensure the steps being taken fit in with the latest scientific advice.
Progress along the economic recovery pathway will be reliant on controlling the rate of transmission of COVID-19.
Many firms have already adapted their working practices and protocols or are preparing to do so, particularly in wider manufacturing and food production sectors.
This includes moving to straight production lines to facilitate two metre distancing, adding Perspex walkways, splitting work patterns and sittings in canteens, having appropriate PPE and increasing the cleaning of premises.
Minister Dodds continued:
“I will do everything I can to protect individuals and livelihoods which support families and communities across Northern Ireland.
“A coordinated approach across the Executive will be required to help our businesses get back up and running and workplaces operating safely.
“Other important issues including childcare, public transport and management of the footfall on city centre streets will also need to be considered alongside our plans for the economy.”
The Engagement Forum, chaired by the Labour Relations Agency, has already published workplace safety guidance. These live documents set out principles and practical steps to help employers, employees and the self-employed keep workplaces safe.
Papers will also be published by the Department in the near future on further steps to be taken for the retail sector on the pathway to recovery, how vulnerable but viable businesses will be supported through the next phases of the pandemic, support for the unemployed to retrain and upskill, and how to deliver on the commitment for a strong, competitive and regionally balanced economy in these challenging times.
The Executive also agreed yesterday that hotels can now take advance bookings in preparation for when they can accept guests but there is currently no date agreed for the resumption of hotel business.
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