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Northern Ireland Executive sets out pathway for easing of restrictions - 02/03/2021

On Tuesday 2 March, the Northern Ireland Executive announced details of the pathway out of national lockdown.  Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill described the plan as “cautious and hopeful”.

Unlike England, the Executive’s plan does not include dates for the lifting of various restrictions. 

The strategy ‘Moving forward: The Executive’s pathway out of restrictions' sets out a step-by-step approach which includes the expansion of the test, track and protect systems to target localised outbreaks and identify and respond to new variants of the virus.

The flexible framework outlines nine pathways each of which has five phases detailing the level of restrictions required during this period. This means that Northern Ireland may be in different phases across the nine pathways at any given time.

The process of returning young people to schools will begin with phase 1 on Monday March 8; and phase 2 on March 22. The nine pathways are sector based and include:

Home and community
Education
Work
Retail
Hospitality
Sport and leisure
Worship and ceremonies
Travel and tourism
Culture, heritage and entertainment

The pathway begins with step one which is effectively lockdown - where home working remains the default position. Then, in step two, there is a relaxation on workplace attendance. In subsequent steps workplace conferences can resume. 

For the retail sector, step one means that only essential retail can remain open. In subsequent steps, click and collect can resume together with all non-essential retail. 

In step one outdoor exercise is only permitted with your household or with one other person. In step two, outdoor sports facilities can re-open. As the pathway progresses, indoor facilities can reopen.

The Executive says it will engage with businesses in the relevant sectors as part of its four-weekly reviews. The first of these reviews will be held on 16 March, with subsequent reviews set to take place on 15 April, 13 May and 10 June.

These should not be viewed as dates on which the Executive will move to lift certain restrictions; rather, they are dates that have been identified to examine all relevant indicators.

British Marine members in Northern Ireland should read the strategy to help them understand and prepare for the various stages. 

 

Is there any further information on the businesses in Northern Ireland which are eligible for the hospitality, tourism and retail grant?

Yes. The Northern Irish Executive has published a list of the types of businesses it says should be eligible for the tourism, hospitality and retail grant. This list can be found here.

We have written to NILGA, the body which represents local authorities in Northern Ireland to request that it considers other types of marine business as within the scope of these grants.

We would encourage our members to contact their Local Authority to confirm eligibility.

How does the support announced by the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive differ?

There are a number of similarities. The UK Government has created a separate website which sets out the details of all the support announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This website contains information on who can apply for each measure and whether it is UK-wide, or only available in England.

Most of the measures announced by the UK Government are applicable to businesses in Northern Ireland. The key and notable differences are around the duration of the business rates holiday and the administration of the grants.

Full details of the support for business in Northern Ireland can be found here.

I am a business based in Northern Ireland, am I eligible to receive a grant?

The Northern Ireland Executive is offering two types of grants to businesses affected by COVID-19. These grants are for businesses in the hospitality, tourism and retail sector. The other type of grant is for small businesses. These grants can be broken down as follows:

Hospitality, Tourism and Retail

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced that businesses in the hospitality, tourism and retail sector could be eligible for a £25,000 grant. To apply, a business must have a Total Net Annual Value (NAV) between £15,001 and £51,000. This grant is a one-off payment. 

Small Businesses

Businesses which are in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief in Northern Ireland will be eligible for a £10,000 grant. Business must have a NAV of £15,000 and below to qualify.

In general, only one grant can be paid in respect of each property and only one grant can be paid to each business, irrespective of how many properties the business occupies. If separate businesses are operating from separate properties, then a grant can be registered in relation to each separate business that occupies a separate property.

You must apply for the grants through your local authority.  More information on grant eligibility and details of how to apply can be found here.