Business groups have called for added supports for companies forced to close once again under the Government's measures to try to suppress Covid-19 in Ireland, warning that tens of thousands of jobs are at risk.
Chamber leaders around the country have called on the Government to introduce supports for impacted businesses quickly and to use the time “wisely” to put in place the appropriate infrastructure to support local economies to re-open safely.
"Along with the direct impact on the health of the nation, it is our domestic economy that continues to bear the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-19," Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot said, adding that the news of further restrictions will be devastating for many people.
“However, we must look forward. As we have been through the experience of restrictions before, we now know better what needs to be done.
“Throughout this crisis Chambers Ireland has consistently argued that under-reaction, and delayed reaction, are greater threats to our security and our collective welfare than over-reaction. Supports for businesses must be implemented with even greater urgency than they were in the first wave.”
He called for the Covid-19 Restriction Support Scheme to be made available immediately, and said wage supports for employees and the self-employed would need to be increased.
Retail groups said they were deeply disappointed by the decision to close all non-essential shops. Retail Excellence, which represents more than 2,000 retail businesses, said the decision was “baffling” and would push more businesses into insolvency, with a further 60,000 jobs at risk as a result of the new measures.
“Retailers have invested heavily in making premises safe this year and have been fully compliant with all Government guidelines. Many of the largest retailers in the country have reported less than 1 per cent of their total employees testing positive for Covid19, suggesting the lack of transmission in the retail workplace,” said Duncan Graham, Managing Director of Retail Excellence.
"Despite far higher infection rates, retailers in Northern Ireland continue to trade relatively normally compared to their counterparts in the Republic. No other European country has locked down retail in the way this Government has done with retailers in Ireland."
He warned the six week closure would lead to a “frenzied” shopping experience in the final weeks before Christmas. However, 70 per cent of online spending usually goes to retailers based outside of Ireland, leading to Irish retailers being particularly hard hit in the coming weeks.
Retail Ireland, the Ibec group, said the move to nationwide Level 5 restrictions was a serious blow to “non-essential” retailers, many of which were relying on the run up to Christmas to make up for losses incurred earlier in the year. It joined Retail Excellence in calling for a clear roadmap for the unwinding of restrictions.
"Many retailers are facing into a deeply uncertain Christmas trading period. Many thousands of businesses will have to close and tens of thousands of retail workers will be out of work," said Retail Ireland Director Arnold Dillon. "It is crucial that these measures work and we are in a place to reopen retail in advance of Christmas. We simply cannot contemplate serious rolling restrictions into the future."
The head of American Chamber, Mark Redmond, said the group had fully supported Government measures to control the spread of Covid-19 at every stage of the crisis. He called for ongoing engagement between the Government and industry to prepare for the increased impact of the measures.
“We continue to engage with the teams in the Irish operations of multinationals who are performing critical work serving the global community, keeping global supply chains going, providing critical infrastructure and contributing to the economic recovery,” he said. “ They are doing this at all times adhering to workplace safety protocols and global best practice.”