Government faces a quandary over Border retailing

If shops are open on one side how do you stop people from the other side using them?

The Republic faces a real quandary in how to treat the retail sector as Northern Ireland tightens its restriction and a Level 4 lockdown is imposed on the Border counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal.

The North’s executive has chosen to leave its retail industry open, even as it closes schools for two weeks and shuts its hairdressers, bars and restaurants for a month. However, in the three counties affected by the move to Level 4 under the Government’s Living With Covid plan, non-essential shops on this side of the divide would ordinarily be shut.

This would create an obvious anomaly in the region, as consumers from virus-ravaged counties such as Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan would be obviously tempted to pop over the Border to buy goods in the north.

In order to prevent such journey’s from taking place, authorities in the north and the south would either have to police the Border, which would be politically and culturally difficult, or else the State would have to adjust the requirements of its Level 4 plan to leave retailers in the Border region open.


That would make the move to Level 4 almost pointless, as the shutting down of retail is the main difference between it and Level 3, apart from also banning household visits.

Let’s say the Government does move the Border counties to level 4, but leaves shops open. If this truncated approach still succeeds in driving virus numbers down, then reasonable questions can be asked about whether retailing is a major spreader of infection at all, and whether non-essential retailers should be shut under any level of the Living With Covid plan, in any other area of the country.