Following the Northern Ireland Executive’s announcement this week of a phased five-stage strategy to move slowly out of lockdown, The Impartial Reporter spoke to some Fermanagh business owners. Scott Robinson, owner of Craigville Garden Centre said: “Whatever it is, it is. They’re doing it right and as tough as it is we have to sit tight. We’re worried about this second outbreak. I suppose that is the big worry and then we could be closed for the rest of the year.”

“It depends what they do. If they let us fully open properly that’s good, with social distancing obviously but if they start saying you can only have three or four in at a time, that’s not going to work,” commented Scott.

Explaining that he has been adhering to the government lockdown regulations and has done what he has been asked to do, Scott said: “We’ve been closed for eight weeks. We started doing deliveries and stuff a couple of weeks ago and that keeps us going but it’s not near what the sales would be.”

“I do know other businesses that shouldn’t be open have been open all along. That’s not much respect for the public either and how they’ve got away with it so I think the government never thought it through at the very start what they were doing and they left too many loopholes. Really it’s crazy,” he added.

Reiterating his views on how the Executive are dealing with the lockdown now and their phased exit strategy, Scott said: “I think they are doing the right thing, they’ve took it this far, they might as well do it right now and not make a hams of it. To be fair, we can’t really fault that much, as much as it’s killing us because it’s our season, not like other shops, we can’t open up and start selling clothes and beer or whatever. We are a seasonal business and we’ve lost eight weeks of it already.”

Commenting that he finds it unrealistic to expect an actual date to reopen pubs and restaurants, Blakes of the Hollow owner Pat Blake said: “It’s disappointing but entirely understandable in the unprecedented nature of the crisis we are facing.”

Noting that a phased opening with social distancing will cause “specific difficulties, particularly where alcohol is involved”, Pat added: “Similarly whether a phased opening is viable in commercial terms is yet to be seen. If pubs can only accommodate a half or a third of their normal capacity we may well see earlier closing so no late extensions, no music or entertainment until a complete lockdown is lifted and normality returns.”

A spokesman for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council stated: “Fermanagh and Omagh District Council notes the publication of the Executive Approach to Decision Making and is considering this and other guidance together with current public health advice to inform the phased reopening of its facilities and services and general operating arrangements.”