Covid-19: 2,950 new cases reported as Government reviews hospitality supports

New rules on sector, made in bid to curb Covid spread, come into effect from Tuesday

The Government has met with representatives of the hospitality and live entertainment sector, as well as the The Restaurants Association of Ireland, and agreed to review supports for the sectors. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

The Republic’s Department of Health has reported 2,950 new cases of Covid-19. The number of patients being treated in hospital was 536 as of 8am on Monday, it said, with 110 in ICU.

In the North, the death of one more person with Covid was reported on Monday with a further 1,635 confirmed cases of the virus.

A total of 301 people are receiving hospital treatment for the virus there with 34 in intensive care.

With the high numbers in recent weeks having prompted renewed restrictions in the Republic, the Government has agreed to review supports for hospitality after holding what was described as a “constructive” meeting with representatives from the sector on Monday morning.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, and Minister for Arts and Culture Catherine Martin met with representatives of the hospitality and live entertainment sector as well as the The Restaurants Association of Ireland.

In a statement issued just after the meeting concluded at 12.30pm, the Government it recognised the “deep disappointment” of those working in the sectors following the announcement of new restrictions in the face of potential threat of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“We recognise the challenges faced by the industry, especially in the lead up to Christmas. Support schemes were also discussed.

“The Ministers listened to the issues raised and will take account of what was discussed, ahead of the Government meeting tomorrow.”

Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland said the main focus of the meeting was the use of the Covid Recovery Support Scheme (CRSS) for the sector.

Qualifying businesses can apply to Revenue for a cash payment of up to €5,000 a week if they can show large falls in turnover. The scheme is due to come to an end on December 31st 2021.

Mr Cummins said that the current 50 per cent threshold to qualify for CRSS excluded the vast majority of hospitality businesses from availing of the scheme at a vital time.

He said the Government agreed to look at the criteria for CRSS and also indicated that the cap of €5,000 would be revisited.

Eligibility

Speaking separately Heather Humphreys outlined the revised terms for those receiving Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
824 79

She said it was confined to those who lose their jobs as a result of the latest restrictions, which essentially confines the eligibility to those working in hospitality and in nightclubs. The highest rate of PUP which is €350 per week will be retained for those whose earning are over €400 per week.

She said that “if people can show they have been laid out because of the latest restrictions… they will certainly get the support of the PUP.”

She instanced others who supply the sector including taxi drivers who work late at night who can show they have lost all their work. They will be eligible for PUP she said.

The rates payable of PUP fell in November for all sectors but this exception will allow those who have lost jobs in the hospitality sector because of the latest restrictions to avail of higher rates.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced there was a need for a reintroduction of some restrictions due to the high incidence of Covid-19 in the community and the new Omicron variant.

The new rules will remain in place until January 9th.

Among the new measures, tables in restaurants and bars will be limited to six people, there is an inability to book multiple tables, and nightclubs must close.

Indoor events will also be only permitted to run if they are at 50 per cent capacity and if all guests are seated, under the latest bout of restrictions.

The announcement of the new restrictions was largely met with devastation by the sector.

Scenario

Speaking ahead of the meeting with government representatives, Elaine O’Connor, the co-founder of the Event Industry Association of Ireland, described the 50 per cent capacity restriction for events as the “worst case scenario.”

It had been a “very long” year and a half for the sector which had been hoping for “some sort of progress,” she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

“We’re now in what I would describe as our worst scenario. We’re at our lowest ebb now.”

Ms O’Connor acknowledged that they had received some supports, but said that they had been very focused on sectors of the industry that “maybe suit Government departments more than the industry”.

There were “countless different event types” that had not been able to access supports, she said.

“To run a gig at 50 percent capacity you’d have to have been making 50 percent profit essentially beforehand. We were never anywhere close to that, 70 percent was a struggle,” she added.

Events were now more than 30 per cent to 40 per cent more expensive to run, she said, “so you’re talking about spending nearly twice as much money or spending twice as much time producing something on the double to try and make up the difference”.

Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said the Government must ensure that the supports in place will adequately help businesses get through a challenging period.

The Taoiseach said yesterday that comprehensive supports will be given for hospitality and the live music sector, with more details to be announced in the coming days.

The Government has already said it will reopen the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) at the top rate of €350 for people who lost their jobs as a result of the latest reintroduction of restrictions.

It will also consider raising the €5,000 a week cap on financial support for large businesses affected by the new measures.

Existing PUP recipients will continue to receive the lower amounts of €250 and €203 a week.

As of 8am on Monday, there were 536 cases of Covid-19 in hospitals, with 49 admissions and 19 discharges over the past 24 hours. In ICU, there are 110 Covid patients.

Figures from the HSE show that between November 26th and December 2nd, 37 per cent of people presenting for PCR tests were children aged between 0 and 14-years-old.

That age group represented the highest proportion of individuals seeking tests, followed by 35 to 44-year-olds at 18 per cent and 25 to 34-year-olds at 12 per cent.

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest newsSIGN UP HERE