The four-week circuit breaker cost an estimated £400 million and had a direct impact on 60,000 jobs, according to an initial assessment by The Department for the Economy.
The research, published this morning, was part of a paper presented by the Economy Minister Diane Dodds yesterday to the Executive as the basis of discussions surrounding fresh Covid restrictions.
The Executive has been struggling to agree on what form the fresh restrictions should take when the current circuit breaker officially ends at midnight on Thursday.
There were angry exchanges among ministers after the DUP moved to block a proposal to extend the full restrictions for a further two weeks.
Health Minister Robin Swann had tabled a recommendation to extend the circuit-break measures in their entirety after warning of another spike in cases by mid-December if the move was not taken.
After Mr Swann’s paper was voted down, ministers debated alternative proposals tabled by Mrs Dodds, who is understood to have recommended a partial reopening of the hospitality sector.
Mrs Dodds said: “This initial analysis carried out by my officials provides important evidence of the profound impact the Covid-19 restrictions have had on our economy.”
“The four-week circuit breaker had a direct impact on around 60,000 jobs with severe financial consequences in particular for people working in accommodation and food, close contact services, supply chain businesses, and the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors.
“Indicators are that females, younger workers and those on low pay may have been most adversely affected.”
The paper estimated the four-week circuit breaker will cost approx £400m (although it admits this could be an over estimate). Starting point is an estimated £120m direct hit to GVA for hospitality, arts/ents and ‘other services’ for the 4 weeks.
The initial assessment states that even if the £400 million is an overestimate, “we consider the impact is probably in the magnitude of hundreds of millions of pounds” i.e. £200m plus.
This is on top of losses estimated at £4 billion to £5 billion from the original lockdown earlier this year.
First Minister Arlene Foster told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme that Northern Ireland was facing “a mental health tsunami” if the economy was not considered, as well as health advice.
“There will be excess deaths if we continue with the restrictions or if we take no decisions at all, so let’s have the whole picture out in the open,” said the DUP leader.
Just finished In Stormont. Meeting is adjourned to 12.30 tomorrow. A Key decision still to be taken. It’s important that we follow the medical advice and get this right.
Northern Ireland, Diane Dodds, Democratic Unionist Party, Department for the Economy
World news – GB – NI circuit-breaker may have cost the economy £400 million, minister claims