Ibec calls for clear roadmap for reopening of the economy

Letter to Taoiseach and Ministers says ‘summer being outdoors’ is not a plan

Ibec said vague sentiments about summer being outdoors were not enough. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Ibec said vague sentiments about summer being outdoors were not enough. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

Business and employers group Ibec has sought a clear roadmap for the reopening of the economy with dates and trigger points, which would enable business to prepare, in a letter sent to Government on Monday evening.

The group also warns that “vague sentiments about the summer will be outdoors is not a plan”, telling Government that businesses need specific guidance to prepare for a safe reopening in the summer.

Ibec chief Danny McCoy also says that keeping businesses in a Level 5 lockdown, when “circumstances have considerably improved, is both undermining confidence and the sense of equity as society moves ahead of the guidance”.

“It is clear that the understanding, and indeed credibility, of the five levels set out in the Covid Framework need to be reset to reflect the situation of summer 2021, not last summer when originally devised,” he says.

The Ibec letter, sent to the Taoiseach and Ministers on Monday evening, argues for a greater level of reopening of businesses, including all construction, personal services such as hairdressing and gyms, and non-essential retail.

“Government has previously acknowledged the main reason for the closure of non-essential retail was to limit movement in public spaces. Given the trends of recent weeks, that logic no longer holds, and all non-essential retail and personal services should now be fully reopened,” the letter states.

Ibec also says that outdoor hospitality should be reopening early next month.

“Mass outdoor gatherings in public spaces are now commonplace. These are occurring in largely unregulated and unsupervised circumstances. In order to provide safer and properly controlled settings for social gatherings, the return of outdoor hospitality must be supported with preparation time begun immediately for opening up early May,” the group says.

Seeking firm dates for the reopening of outdoor dining and pubs, it says: “Businesses in the hospitality economy need dates and trigger points in moving to phased openings to plan and retain hope of saving their enterprises.”

The group also warns about mental health difficulties due to the isolation of many workers, which it says that businesses are now reporting.

“Many of our members are reporting employee mental health issues as the single biggest challenge facing their organisations. Younger workers, in particular, are suffering significant mental health issues which will have long-term implications for society and the public health system,” it says.

It calls for a phased return to offices in the coming months and an increase in the capacity of public transport to facilitate this.

The group also calls for “clearer communication” from Government about how the reopening is going to proceed.

“Clearer communication on the link between the vaccination milestones and the reopening of the remaining sectors of the economy, would greatly help those businesses which require significant lead times to ensure a safe and well-managed reopening,” the letter says.