Car dealers in Northern Ireland face an even longer period without trading as the Stormont Executive has warned that it is ‘highly unlikely’ that coronavirus restrictions will be eased after the six-week lockdown ends.
Health minister Robin Swann said although the R number has dropped to 0.7, the number of cases and hospital inpatients with the virus remains high.
The Stormont Executive agreed the tough range of measures in December to start from Boxing Day until February 6.
On December 26, Norther Ireland went into a six week lockdown where car dealers were forced to close showrooms with no click-and-collect allowed.
- Bleak winter for Northern Ireland car dealers as six-week lockdown announced with no click-and-collect
Leadership had advised there would be a review of the lockdown after four weeks but this latest announcement will cast doubt over when these businesses can open again.
Swann said: ‘We’re still looking at 1,000 positive cases, on average, per day. Those are high numbers.
‘We’re still looking at massive numbers in our hospitals, over 840 people still in hospital. We are in the middle of our six-week lockdown, we said we’d review where we are on January 21, as to what steps we will take on February 6.
‘R is coming down but it is coming down from a very high level of number of cases so that decrease has to be maintained for a long period of time, for I would say another two to three weeks before we can get those numbers of positive cases, before we can get the number of hospital admissions down so that we can really see the pressure starting to come off our hospitals and our health service.
‘It will be highly unlikely that we will see any great easement of where we currently are. These conversations are being had by many governments across these islands, across the world, as to what steps we can take.’
In an interview with the BBC later, he added: ‘I wouldn’t want to say we will be in this format of this lockdown for another eight to 10 weeks, but will I say that we’ll go back to complete normality? No.’