No Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland for ninth consecutive day

Retail groups ask that wearing of face coverings in shops not be made mandatory

Retail NI and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce have asked the authorities not to make the wearing of face coverings in shops in Northern Ireland compulsory. File photograph: Andy Rain/EPA.

Retail NI and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce have asked the authorities not to make the wearing of face coverings in shops in Northern Ireland compulsory. File photograph: Andy Rain/EPA.

 

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health has recorded no deaths from Covid-19 for a ninth consecutive day.

Nine new cases of the disease, which has killed 556 people in the North, were reported by the department on Wednesday, taking the total to 5,868.

Ahead of an expected decision from the Northern Executive on Thursday, Retail NI and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce have counselled against making the wearing of face coverings in shops in Northern Ireland compulsory.

The indication in the past week is that the Executive is to make the wearing of masks mandatory, with Minister of Health Robin Swann previously calling for such a move.

The chief executives of Retail NI and the Belfast Chamber, Glyn Roberts and Simon Hamilton, who met First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill on Monday, called for wearing masks to be voluntary.

“We impressed upon the First Minister and Deputy First Minister the concerns expressed by many of our members that, whilst they are keen to continue to do all that they can to beat Covid-19, the retail sector is still in a fragile place,” they said in a joint statement.

“We need to be careful that we don’t damage the recovery and all impacts of any decision on wearing face coverings must be carefully considered,” they said.

“Retailers have invested considerable amounts of money in making their shops safe for staff and customers and would be more than willing to work with the Executive on a campaign to increase the voluntary wearing of face coverings, but we made clear to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister our concern that their mandatory wearing could adversely affect trade and generate serious issues around enforcement.”

They added: “Slowly but surely our high streets and city centres are beginning to recover so it is essential that we ensure that nothing is done which would discourage shoppers from returning to them.”