Coalition promises backing for firms hit by fresh coronavirus restrictions

Plans in train to recalibrate supports for affected businesses, says Government source

Nightclubs are to remain closed until January 9th while pubs and restaurants will be only able to take groups of up to six. File photograph: Getty

Nightclubs are to remain closed until January 9th while pubs and restaurants will be only able to take groups of up to six. File photograph: Getty

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The Government has pledged to provide targeted supports to businesses and sectors affected by the latest round of Covid-19 restrictions, which come into force today.

The measures will mean capacity restricted to 50 per cent at indoor entertainment, cultural, community and sporting events, which must now be fully seated. Nightclubs are to remain closed until January 9th while pubs and restaurants will be only able to take groups of up to six. Vaccination certificates will now be required in gyms, leisure centres and hotel bars and restaurants.

A Government source said plans were in train to recalibrate pandemic supports for affected businesses such as the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), with the entry criteria likely to be altered and potential changes to the weekly cap under consideration.

A number of special support schemes for professions that could suffer “knock-on” damage from the restrictions – such as catering, coach operators and taxi drivers – are also being examined.

Minister for Arts Catherine Martin said she understood it was not financially viable for many venues to operate at 50 per cent capacity. She said she hoped to announce supports for affected businesses “in the coming days”.

A €25 million support package for the live entertainment sector was announced yesterday and bespoke supports and changes to the CRSS scheme are expected to follow. Measures are to be considered at a Cabinet meeting today.

Emerging information

Asked about the possibility of further restrictions being introduced, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that while the Government had laid out its plan until January 9th, much would depend on emerging information about the Omicron variant.

“There is a lot of international work going on right now in relation to the Omicron variant. I think we do have to wait to see the outcome of that work in terms of how infectious it is, how virulent is it, to what degree will it create illness and what amount of vaccine escape is there,” he said, adding that this would, to an extent, determine “the direction of travel”.

Mr Martin also said he had asked his officials “to do everything we possibly can to increase” the uptake and the provision of booster vaccine doses in the interim.

Separately, Government figures are adamant that there is no attempt to “suppress” advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

It comes after it was agreed that interviews with Nphet members should be arranged through the Government press office.

Mr Martin said the Government wanted to ensure that the messaging was co-ordinated as there has been, in recent times, a “plethora” of voices speaking on the same issues, which was unhelpful.