Northern Ireland to distribute 100 pound shop vouchers in COVID stimulus

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Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Belfast

BELFAST (Reuters) - Northern Ireland is to give a voucher worth 100 pounds ($139) to all adults as a COVID-19 stimulus in the first major scheme of its kind in the United Kingdom, the regional executive announced on Friday.

Every person over 18 in the region, approximately 1.4 million people, will be able to apply for a pre-paid card that must be spent in nearby shops or hospitality outlets and can not be used online, Economy Minister Diane Dodds said in a statement.

The scheme will not open until the end of the summer, however as local businesses are expected to enjoy pent-up demand as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in the coming weeks, Dodds said.

"We believe that the end of the summer is the appropriate time to deliver this spending boost," she said.

The Labour Party in Scotland has promised to introduce a similar scheme with a 75 pound voucher if it wins a regional election next week.

The British government last year was reported to be considering a voucher stimulus scheme, but instead funded a discount for restaurant diners eating between Monday and Wednesday.

($1 = 0.7172 pounds)

(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson and Conor Humphries; Editing by Alistair Smout)