Tens of thousands due to sign on over the coming days - McGrath

Financial supports for supply-chain firms hit by Covid restrictions to be announced shortly

Thousands of hospitality industry employees are expected to sign on for unemployment supports over the coming days due to new Covid restrictions, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has said.

The hospitality industry expects more than 60,000 people could lose their jobs due to an 8pm curfew on pubs and restaurants which comes into effect on Monday.

Mr McGrath said while it was difficult to predict numbers, he expects tens of thousands will seek the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) or other forms of income support.

The next PUP payment is due on December 21st and those who applied in recent days will get an advance payment this coming Tuesday to cover the following week.

He said the Government is asking businesses, where possible, to keep employees on their books using the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme. This will be paid at the top rate until at least the end of January.

Other financial support schemes, such as the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme, are due to be recalibrated over the weekend with announcements expected on Tuesday at the latest.

Mr McGrath said changes will aim to provide support for “supply chain” businesses and others whose trade is heavily dependent on providing goods or services to the hospitality sector.

He said officials were also examining a Business Resumption Support Scheme, a single payment aimed at businesses whose turnover has fallen sharply due to Covid restrictions.

Mr McGrath acknowledged the enormous difficulty restrictions will cause, but said the Government will support those affected.

“No Government ever wants to be in a position where it has to impose restrictions which result in people losing their job,” he told RTÉ’s This Week programme.

"As a Government, we have been presented with modelling and a scenario whereby the Omicron variant is now dominant in Ireland. in the next number of weeks, we'll see a significant increase in the incidence of this disease... the first duty of any Government is to protect the health of its people and to safeguard our public health system, and that is why we've made the moves we've made," he said.

When asked if other restrictions are due by the end of the month, he said the next National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) meeting is not scheduled until January 6th.

“If circumstances require, a further meeting can be arranged. We stand ready to respond to events and circumstances as they unfold.

“But I think it’s important that we reassure people that all arms of Government are fully focused and working at full tilt to address what is a very significant challenge for our country.”