Business leaders in Cork have raised concerns about moving to level three 3 Covid-19 restrictions, despite Taoiseach Micheál Martin choosing not to “move to a more comprehensive lockdown.”
Last night, Mr Martin said: “It’s important to understand that the potential implications of such a move are severe and very different from those we faced earlier this year.
“It could involve the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs with these concentrated in families and communities, which are already experiencing difficulties.”
However, Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy said supports such as the wage subsidy scheme will now need to be extended.
“Government support measures have been very helpful but I think the timeframes are going to have to be extended,” he said.
“While not surprising, it is nonetheless challenging for business and society to move to level three restrictions.
“The impact of these tighter restrictions will be immensely challenging for those operating in food and beverage, hospitality or culture-based venues.
“Our economy and business community are in a highly vulnerable position now.
“A real push is now needed from all of society, to return to level two, and ensure we can resume meaningful economic activity for retail and hospitality before Christmas.”
Under level three restrictions, wet pubs outside of Dublin will remain open, however, there will be no indoor seating permitted in pubs.
Instead, there will be a maximum of 15 customers allowed outdoors.
Michael O’Donovan, Cork City chairman of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) and owner of The Castle Inn on South Main St, said the implementation of tighter restrictions will result in many pubs having to close again.
“Very few would have the option of staying open and serving 15 outside as is in level three and four,” he said. “If we get to level five, we’re only permitted to offer a takeaway service which again, is not feasible for the vast majority of publicans.
“It’s the nightmare scenario – we’re only open two weeks and will be forced to close again.
“The question that we will be facing again is the uncertainty of when we’ll be able to open again,” he said.
Mr O’Donovan said it has been an extremely difficult time for publicans and that closing again may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some pubs.
“We were built up three times over the summer and it was taken away from us until we finally got to open,” he said.
“Now that we’re open, to be honest, it hasn’t been a fun experience for the last two weeks. We’re nearly like a headmaster minding your premises – for the first time in my life… it hasn’t been enjoyable to come to work.
“Every day is just stressful – you’re on your toes trying to follow the guidelines and make sure everybody is doing as they are requested.”
Cork chair of the Restaurant Association of Ireland Mike Ryan, who runs five restaurants in Limerick and Cork, said further supports must be put in place for the hospitality industry warning that, if not, “there won’t be an industry come the new year”.
Meanwhile, given the rising number of cases, Gerry Killeen, Axa research chair of applied pathogen ecology at the School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences in UCC, says the Government must re-examine their approach, with more decisive action needed.
“The question really isn’t about what we do right now, the question is how does it fit into a broader strategy and then are we really sure we want to go down this living with the virus pathway for at least another nine months but more likely for an awful lot longer,” said Prof Killeen. “It looks like a pretty grey landscape… this is about as good as it gets unfortunately once you’re on that path.
“Unless you want to go the direction of herd immunity and all the trauma and uncertainty that comes with that, regardless of whether you want to mitigate, suppress or eliminate, you have to throw a fire blanket on this one decisively now.”