NITA's Thoughts on Social Distancing Reduction to 1m

Posted 05 Jun, 2020

"While some lockdown measures are being eased across Northern Ireland, the social distancing rules, which state that people from different households should stay 2m apart from each other, still apply. However, recently the Minister of Economy, Diane Dodds, said the NI Executive would consider halving the social distancing measure to 1m. Speaking at the Adhoc Committee on 11th June, the Minister said 'that an open and honest discussion was needed on the issue'.

At NITA, we welcome this news as halving the distance will make a significant difference to all tourism businesses, making it more financially viable to reopen. This would be in line with World Health Organisation guidelines which have been put into practise in France and Italy and would ensure tourism and hospitality have the best chance of survival once lockdown is lifted.

Already, tourism and hospitality will face far bigger challenges in reopening. The industry, unlike any other part of the economy, was hit first at the end of the quietest part of the tourism calendar with reserves at a minimum and investments already made. Having lost the start of the main season and no expectation of international visitors until 2021, Tourism will be the last to fully recover.

The consideration of reducing social distancing from 2m to 1m would make a huge economic difference. With onerous social-distancing rules with strict limits on the number of customers/visitors for an extended period, many businesses will not be able to operate fully, and many will not be able to open at all as it will not be financially viable. Industry are confident that they can open safely, for both staff and visitors, with a reduced social distancing requirement. Therefore it would be more commercially viable for businesses to reopen and thus protect more jobs across Northern Ireland.”

Hospitality Ulster commissioned research into the impact of reducing social distancing which can be accessed on their website here.

NITA will continue to raise these points for consideration locally via the Department of Economy and the Tourism Recovery Steering and Working Groups, who are developing reopening guidelines for the NI and nationally via TIER (Tourism Industry Emergency Response) and Visitor Economy Group, which was recently set up to feed into the UK Ministerial Taskforce to shape tourism reopening."