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Architects in Northern Ireland demand lockdown clarity

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Architects in Northern Ireland have urged the province’s government to clear up the rules about construction work during the lockdown

Northern Ireland introduced strict social distancing measures at the end of March as part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. People in the province are currently only allowed out for food, health reasons or for work that can’t be done from home.

This lockdown has now been extended into May, yet the Royal Society of Ulster Architects said construction activity remained a ‘grey’ area.

The NI Department for the Economy this week published a guide setting out what employers should do to keep workers safe if they are to carry on working. This included suggestions such as offering protective equipment for workers forced to be closer than 2m from each other; introducing one-way corridors; and limiting lifts to one person at a time. Hand sanitiser supplies should be ‘kept stocked up’.

Alongside this guide, the government put out a list of priority sectors, including various elements of construction, such as supporting the health and emergency services and delivering essential domestic services.

But, after the department said this list was ‘advisory’ and ‘allows companies in Northern Ireland to make their own decisions’, RSUA president Joan McCoy said architects were being left to guess whether work would continue on their sites.

‘In every other part of the UK and Ireland there is clarity on what construction activities are currently allowed,’ she said.

‘The decision on whether to proceed with any or all construction activities [in Northern Ireland] has been left with individual companies. This is a question of public policy and should not be left in the hands of individual businesses.

‘Construction clients need answers. Should they expect people back on site, or not?’

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