Stormont wrangle over reopening of services ‘a farce’

The Stormont wrangle over reopening services after the coronavirus lockdown is “a farce”, a Belfast barbershop owner has said.

Sean Lawlor said people had been thrown into a “cauldron” of uncertainty and added he had not received a penny in compensation for the shutdown already ordered.

Mr Lawlor, who owns Cambridge Barbershop in the city’s exclusive Lisburn Road, said: “It is a farce, it really is.

“To have so many parties in a power-sharing Government and they cannot agree, it is just shocking.

“If they said ‘you are closed for another two weeks’ at least we would know where we stand.”

The closures due to end this week were part of a four-week circuit-break to push down the rapidly increasing spread of coronavirus.

Mr Lawlor said: “Everyone has been thrown into this cauldron, they just do not know where they are. We just need that clarity.”

He said he was angry after all the effort and thousands of pounds being put into protecting staff and customers, adding: “We have amongst the safest environments in any industry.”

He noted churches had been allowed to reopen.

“These businesses can operate online and we cannot,” he said. “It was a complete kick in the teeth.

“They completely reversed everything that we had done by saying we were deemed unsafe to go back to work, yet they were happy enough to let other places go.”

The Northern Ireland Executive announced that close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, were among a range of businesses required to close until November 13.

Solicitors representing the barbers have asked to see evidence used by ministers to decide to close down those parts of the economy.

A scientific paper that guided the Executive’s recent decisions on the introduction of the circuit-break estimated the closure of hairdressers and beauticians could reduce the virus’s reproduction number (R number) by 0.05.

The paper was published as part of an initiative by the Department of Health to increase transparency around the decision-making process.

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