A new government directive saw the closure of “non-essential” businesses earlier this week in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19. But despite guidance issued by Stormont on Tuesday of this week there is widespread confusion among some Fermanagh workers as to what amounts to non essential?

The Impartial Reporter was contacted by a number of employees from various factories and businesses who questioned both the rationale for remaining open and also the effectiveness of social distancing at their place of work.

One such business is Elite Electronics with several employees raising concerns, with one stating: “We are worried because it is just impossible to properly social distance ourselves from each other, tools are shared, laptops are shared, and people work close together with over 200 staff in the building still. We are fearing for our lives”.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter, Jonathan Balfour, Managing Director of Elite Electronics said that the company had put in place working for home for those staff who could avail of this. “We have taken a number of measures including closing the canteen, allowing people to work from home who can, and we have implemented a two metre work rule where possible.”

Mr. Balfour went on to say that he accepted that the messages from politicians have been mixed: “There has been no real clarity. It hasn’t really helped the situation at all but we are communicating with our staff every day.”

Among other products Elite Electronics make medical equipment, which would be deemed essential, however the employees that this newspaper spoke to stated that “most of the work we do is not related to any medical equipment, but all that work is still going on. That work could be stopped at least, to make things safer.”

Mr. Balfour, however, said that some of the non medical equipment that was being made in the factory was still being used in the fight against coronavirus, such as communications for care homes, and equipment being used in the construction of field hospitals. He asserted that Elite Electronics have customers who have “been asked directly by the government” to keep producing products. “If we stop they will have to stop,” Mr Balfour said.

Stormont ministers have confirmed that the following essential retail services should continue to trade:

• Supermarkets (excluding any cafes within them), convenience stores and corner shops

• Grocery markets – not including farmers markets, hot food markets or street food markets.

• Local fresh food suppliers like butchers, fishmongers and bakeries.

• Hot food takeaways - over the counter services only and not allowing an option to eat in.

• Pharmacies/Chemists and Health food shops.

• Dental surgeries, opticians, audiology, physiotherapy, chiropody and other professional vocational medical services – for urgent appointments only.

• Veterinary clinics and pet shops.

• Newsagents, hardware and building supplies stores.

• Retail services in hospitals.

• Petrol stations, garages, and auto repair shops for urgent work only.

• High street banks, credit unions and cash points.

• Post offices.

• Funeral directors, crematoriums and related.

• Laundrettes and dry cleaners.

• Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop-off points.

• Medical or storage services.

• Public car parks in towns and cities near food takeaway services.

• Public toilets.

2. The following non-essential retail services should close immediately:

• Clothes shops and electronics shops.

• Hair, beauty and nail salons.

• All other non-essential retail shops, including off-licenses.

• All other indoor and outdoor markets including non-food markets and car boot sales.

• Hotels, hostels, Bed and Breakfasts, Caravan Parks, Camping sites, Boarding Houses – except where caravans and mobile homes are being used as permanent residences and where hotels are providing emergency accommodation.

• Libraries and Community centres and youth centres.

• Places of worship – all churches should close to services except for funeral services. Weddings and baptisms should be postponed. If clergy want to live-stream for church services, they are free to do so.

• All indoor recreation sites such as bowling alleys, arcades, soft play areas. Enclosed spaces in public parks such as playgrounds, tennis courts and outdoor gyms.