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Business groups urge public to keep following basic rules and work together to suppress virus

Northern Ireland’s four leading Chambers of Commerce have issued an urgent appeal to the public to work together to help flatten the current spike in Covid-19 cases.

The chief executives of the Londonderry, Belfast, Newry, and Causeway Chambers are urging everyone across Northern Ireland to take much greater caution in the coming weeks and to minimise their contacts as much as possible to help push the R rate of the virus back down.

They are also calling for a plan that will ensure there is a longer term solution to how we keep the economy going, rather than the stop start approach that is decimating businesses.

In a joint statement, Paul Clancy, Simon Hamilton, Colm Shannon, and Karen Yates said: “The Executive has taken drastic action this week to suppress the disturbing rise in Covid-19 cases. These are actions which will have devastating consequences on businesses of all shapes and sizes across Northern Ireland but have sadly been deemed necessary to protect lives and ensure capacity within our health service.

“To give our companies a fighting chance of survival, we all now need to step up our own efforts to push down the curve of the virus once again. The people of Northern Ireland showed in the early stages of the pandemic how we can pull together and work collectively to protect our loved ones and the vulnerable in our society. It is time to redouble our efforts.

“We also need to see a plan emerging that will enable us to balance the health of society as well as our economic needs. Businesses cannot deal with repeated lockdowns. A longer-term solution must be found to this crisis.

“Our businesses have had an exceptionally difficult year. Being forced to shut their doors for three months, investing energy and time and millions of pounds into ensuring premises are safe and secure to welcome back staff and customers, and now either being forced to close again or trading in a ‘lockdown in all but name’ environment, has taken a huge toll on the local business community and is being felt in all four corners of our region.

“The new restrictions are a devastating blow. Going in and out of lockdown is the worst possible thing for businesses and workers. It breeds uncertainty and anxiety and will lead to significant job losses.

“By following the four basic but key rules – regular hand washing, wearing a mask in shops and enclosed spaces, social distancing when you’re out and about, and minimising your social contacts as much as you can – we can flatten the curve again.

“The power is in all our hands to get back to normality as soon as possible but we must pull together to protect lives, protect jobs, and save businesses across Northern Ireland.”