The Northern Ireland Assembly has recently introduced new regulations across the region to try and stop the spread of coronavirus. The unequal impact of new lockdown restrictions have been felt by many. These lockdown restrictions have made it illegal for anyone from separate households to visit one another inside their homes. These new rules also restrict the number of people meeting in private gardens. However, bars and restaurants remain open for people to socialise in.
Firstly, there are many people that cannot afford to go out to eat and drink frequently in order to meet with friends. Many people have recently lost their jobs or have been put on restricted hours as a result of coronavirus. In the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Ireland the number of people applying for welfare benefits as a result of losing their job or reduced hours rose by 120%. It has also become increasingly difficult for many people to find work since the coronavirus pandemic started.
Single mothers are also a group that are experiencing the unequal impact of new lockdown restrictions. For many single mothers it is simply not an option to frequently go out to eat and drink because of time, money and childcare obligations. Although under new restrictions, single mothers are allowed to form a bubble with one other household, there are still many things that they can not do.
Ciara is a student studying in Belfast. Her hours have been greatly restricted at her part-time job which she tells me has had a huge impact on her finances. She lives in a second-floor apartment with no garden. Ciara informs me about how these new restrictions have impacted her.
The unequal impact of new lockdown restrictions
Ciara tells me she believes it is “unfair” and believes that new restrictions are “targeting the wrong places.” She continues by telling me she believes it is “ridiculous that many different households can be under one roof in a bar or restaurant” yet she is “not allowed any of her friends or family” in her flat. She also tells me that it is not just her that has been impacted by the new restrictions, but plenty of others she knows who are “on restricted contracts or have lost their jobs due to coronavirus and do not have the money to socialise in bars and restaurants”.
I ask her about the option to socialise outside and in gardens. She tells me “I do not have a garden of my own to socialise with friends and family in.” She also adds that “with winter weather coming in it will soon be impossible to frequently socialise with friends and family in this way”.
The NI executive has recently brought in new measures to close bars and restaurants at 11pm in order to try and stop the spread of coronavirus in these spaces. However, as long as these places are allowed to stay open while household visits are banned, this will create an unequal divide, where the poorest in society are negatively impacted the most both socially and financially.
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