More freedom for those living alone in North as restrictions lift

‘Each month of lockdown . . . akin to a large recession’ as Covid-19 death takes toll to 538

North’s Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds: offered sympathy to the 600 workers about to lose their jobs at the Bombardier aerospace plant in Belfast. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

North’s Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds: offered sympathy to the 600 workers about to lose their jobs at the Bombardier aerospace plant in Belfast. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

 

People living alone will be permitted to visit each other’s households in Northern Ireland from this Saturday, June 13th, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said on Thursday.

Ms Foster said that adults living on their own could spend the night at another specified house by forming a “small support unit or support bubble”.

“We want to minimise the impact of loneliness and isolation on people by enabling people to meet in a controlled and straightforward way,” she said.

With the R number rate of infection now between 0.5 and 0.9, Ms Foster and Ms O’Neill announced further relaxations of the Northern Ireland lockdown.

These also include the opening of all non-essential retail outlets, including shopping centres, from June 12th while groups of six to 10 people who do not live together can meet outdoors. Elite athletes also can train outdoors from Monday.

Church halls and community centres can provide day childcare from this Friday.

Housing market

Ms Foster said the Northern Ireland housing market was the worst-hit in the UK and that from Monday house moves and sale of homes will be allowed.

After four consecutive days of zero deaths recorded, the North’s Department of Health on Thursday reported one more death in Northern Ireland from coronavirus, taking the death toll to 538.

The department also reported that four more people had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 4,822. So far 62,703 people in the North have been tested for the virus.

Meanwhile, the North’s Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds spoke on Thursday of how coronavirus has been damaging for jobs in Northern Ireland.

She offered her sympathy to the 600 workers set to lose their jobs at the Bombardier aerospace plant in Belfast. These include 400 core staff and more than 200 contractors.

Aviation industry

These redundancies follow Thompson Aero Seating in Portadown, Co Armagh, announcing it was due to cut up to 500 jobs.

Ms Dodds said there was an urgent need to devise a UK “national strategy” to support the aviation industry.

“I fear this will not be the last day we have bad news on the economy,” she told the Northern Assembly’s ad-hoc Covid-19 committee.

The Minister referred to how, prior to the virus, unemployment was at a low rate in Northern Ireland. “Each month of lockdown has been akin to a large recession,” she said.

She added, “The claimants count rose by almost 90 per cent in April and unemployment increased by over 26,000 to 56,200. Six years of labour market progress was lost in one single month.”

She said it was important a debate was held on relaxing the two-metre social distancing rule to a one-metre rule as recommended by the World Health Organisation. Ms Dodds also urged people to consider taking their holidays in Northern Ireland this year “when the time is right”.