A Northern Ireland hair salon owner has hit out at the NI Executive over their ‘confusing messages’ and ‘scant communication’ over the latest Coronavirus restrictions.
Under the new four week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown restrictions which came into force at 6pm on Friday, October 16, close contact services including hairdressers and beauticians were forced to close their doors along with the hospitality industry.
Jeff Faulkner, who owns a hair salon in Belfast said he feels the decisions taken by the executive are ‘chaotic, confusing and do not appear to have been thought through.
Mr Faulkner says he does acknowledge the ‘unenviable job’ the Executive have when making restrictions but says he feels his sector are not been listened to.
He said: “Let me say from the start I know that the NI executive have an unenviable job of balancing public health and the economy and it is difficult but there does not seem to any rhyme nor reason to some of the communications and decisions coming from the executive.
“We have just entered the second enforced closure of our business this year having been given less than 48 hours notice. We as an industry are not being heard or listened to the news stream is focusing on tourism an leisure (Bars and Restaurants) when it comes to lockdown we are lumped in with tourism and Leisure but when it came to a reduction in VAT (5%) we were classed as part of the retail sector.
“This is a devastating blow to our business and especially our team members coming as it does so close to our busiest time of the year and with our reserves already depleted by the first enforced closure.
“This enforced closure was imposed on us at short notice with scant communication to businesses prior to announcing the measures – confusing messages!
“We understand the need to slow the progress of Covid-19 however, the decisions taken by our executive are chaotic, confusing and do not appear to have been thought through.”
The business owner who set up his salon in the city in 1985 said he doesn’t understand how salons have been deemed less safe than other places which have been allowed to remain open.
“Where is the science that says hairdressers are less safe than gyms or churches ? Salon staff all wear PPE, clients wear masks, hand washed, stations cleaned before and after each client – also salons contribute only 4% of 1% of Track & Trace statistics i.e a very small number.
“Since reopening on July 6th we have had no cases or reported contacts for COVID-19 in the salon, why are the executive cherry picking and horse trading over such important matters. When it came to a VAT reduction hairdressers were part of the retail sector and didn’t get a VAT reduction – now we are part of tourism and leisure when it comes to enforced closure.”
The business owner has also called for the reinstatement of the furlough scheme.
He added: “The support package set out by Connor Murphy is inadequate and will signal the death knell for many small businesses.
“The support package allocates only £35 million to businesses. We need the immediate reinstatement of the 80% Furlough scheme (It’s either paid out now to save jobs or later in Universal Credit/Benefits for the huge numbers of unemployed that will result.”