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Lawrence Owens, Cork Business Association. Pic: Brian Lougheed
Lawrence Owens, Cork Business Association. Pic: Brian Lougheed
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Business leaders call for additional supports for businesses but agree new Covid plan is 'a step in the right direction'

Business leaders in Cork have welcomed the publication of the Government’s Resilience & Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19, but have stressed that businesses here continue to face serious challenges and will need additional support.

Cork Business Association chief executive Lawrence Owens said the plan is a step in the right direction.

“My immediate personal reaction is that it’s just slowly getting back to a bit of normality, not anywhere near where we want to be, but it seems that there is that opening out of society a little bit more,” he said.

Mr Owens said the reopening of society since June has gone “remarkably well” despite the challenges such as reduced numbers on public transport.

“Obviously we are down in terms of numbers, footfall has been far less than it would have been in previous years... but in saying that, the average spend has been up, so somewhat the footfall drop has been compensated by that. People are not browsing anymore. They are going in to buy.”

Mr Owens said the winter weather will undoubtedly also present a challenge, and that Cork will need to be more imaginative to try to combat this. “As the weather gets less kind, shall we say, people will certainly not be queuing on the streets of Cork or anywhere,” he said.

Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy said the plan brings clarity. “I think it’s important from both a business and a society level that it’s clear, the implications of both an improvement and a disimprovement in the Covid numbers, I think it’s welcome to have the clarity around stages one to five and what those implications are,” he said.

“From a Cork point of view, being in phase two, the opportunity is there to improve the position to get to phase one and more importantly to ensure we don’t see a deterioration and move to a phase three which has very significant impacts in terms of business and society.”

Mr Healy said, however, it is vital that measures are included in the budget to support businesses. “The budget coming up is really important to ensure that the stimulus is there, that we see the economic activity being supported, that we invest now in construction and infrastructure to keep the economy functioning, and that we give that level of support that is needed at a macro level.

“Then, at an individual business level, the current Covid support that is in place right now until the end of March will need to be extended, particularly for sectors like tourism and hospitality. It just won’t be possible to eliminate those supports in March without having very significant job losses.”