Coronavirus: Lloyds to reopen Belfast call centre ‘as soon as possible’

Staff asked to self-isolate or work from home after employee diagnosed with Covid-19

The Lloyds Banking Group is planning to reopen its Belfast Gasworks call centre "as soon as possible" after becoming the first major company in Northern Ireland to close a site because of coronavirus.

The group's Halifax call centre in Belfast, which employs 1,000 people, was temporarily closed to enable parts of the building to be cleaned after one of its employees was diagnosed with Covid-19.

The group said that while it closely monitored the situation and followed official guidelines, staff at the Belfast Gasworks site had been asked to self-isolate, work from home or from a contingency site – depending on which team or in what part of the building they are normally based.

The Lloyds Banking Group said it did “not anticipate any impact on customer service levels while this is dealt with”.

“Our priority is the wellbeing of the individual, as well as the colleagues and visitors to the building,” the group added.

Second business

The bank is the second business in Belfast this week to temporarily close a premises. A Chinese restaurant in south Belfast has closed its doors because of coronavirus.

The Ternary Chinese Restaurant on Donegall Pass posted a message on its Facebook page stating that it was “temporarily closing”.

We want to preserve and ensure the ongoing livelihoods of everyone in the hospitality sector

It said: “As a precautionary measure in line with prevention efforts taking place across Belfast, putting the health and safety of our guests and staff of Ternary [first], we are temporarily closing until further notice. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

Meanwhile, industry body Hospitality Ulster confirmed on Tuesday that it has set up a special response group to monitor and support the sector because of the impact of the spread of coronavirus in Northern Ireland.

‘Financial implications’

Hospitality Ulster said the cancellation of events such as the St Patrick’s Day celebrations would have obvious “financial implications for the hospitality industry”, but it supported the decisions that had been made and would “respond positively to any directions issued by government”.

Brian Murphy, managing partner at BDO NI, who is chairing the Industry Response Group, said: "We are bringing forward a range of real and practical measures that could be implemented straight away to ensure that the sector and the economy can weather this current storm, which is worsening by the day.

“We want to preserve and ensure the ongoing livelihoods of everyone in the hospitality sector. We are asking the government to consider a number of actions and to intervene immediately to alleviate the situation.”