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Post-Christmas lockdown: Another 'bitter blow' to businesses in Derry

Tough new restrictions to come into force on December 26

“The situation is getting more confusing by the day" - Derry Chamber calls for urgent clarity on the issue of ‘essential services’

Paul Clancy, chief executive of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

The six-week lockdown during the post-Christmas period is another 'bitter blow' to local businesses, industry leaders have said.

The Northern Ireland Executive last night announced that the lockdown will start on December 26.

Non-essential shops in NI will close from the end of trading on Christmas Eve in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The measures will reviewed after four weeks.

Close-contact services, such as hair salons, will have to shut and pubs, cafes and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway services.

The first week of the lockdown, running until January 2, will see even tighter measures with essential shops having to close each day by 8pm.

No sporting events will be permitted at all - even at elite level - with people being urged only to leave their home for essential reasons.

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Paul Clancy said: “Another strict lockdown, akin to what we experienced in March, is yet another bitter blow to our local businesses.

"Again, traders are forced to shut their doors to customers and at what is traditionally the toughest trading period of the year.

“After nearly a year of this crisis, it is regrettable that the Executive does not seem to have any other means to deal with the pandemic other than shutting down the economy over and over.

“Business owners are adaptable and flexible by their nature and will comply with these latest set of restrictions but the Executive must ensure that financial support reaches them as quickly as possible. Any further delays will result in lost jobs and permanently closed businesses.

“While we do not disagree with the urgent need for interventions to support our hospitals and healthcare workers which are under severe strain, it can’t be the case that small businesses bear the brunt of the restrictions every time.

"We all have our part to play in driving cases of the virus back down and I would encourage everyone to continue social distancing, washing their hands regularly, and wearing a mask where necessary.

“The Executive needs to develop, as a matter of priority, a more strategic and sustainable way to deal with the rise in cases, a strategy which will protect jobs and livelihoods alongside lives and the health service.”

The new lockdown rules will include:

- Closure of all non-essential retail, including garden centres and homeware shops that previously were deemed essential
- Click-and-collect services will not be permitted
- Closure of close contact services such as hair and beauty salons
- Hospitality businesses will only be allowed to offer takeaway and delivery
- Closure of the leisure and entertainment sector
- Off-licences will have to close by 8pm
- Car washes will be closed
- Hotels will be allowed to remain open until December 28 to 'accommodate the Christmas situation'
- People from up to three households in Northern Ireland will still be able to meet over the festive period in so-called Christmas 'bubbles' - but that will end on December 27

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