Cork business leaders have stressed that additional supports will be needed to support businesses if level five restrictions continue until Easter.
The Taoiseach said yesterday that level 5 restrictions were likely to remain in place for another number of weeks.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Micheál Martin said that the Government was looking at continuing restrictions “to the Easter period”.
Cork Business Association president Eoin O’Sullivan said that public health was the priority, but that the extension of restrictions would have “a major impact on business”, particularly the hospitality sector.
“Many businesses are struggling at this point in time with retaining staff — that’s a major challenge, especially in the hospitality sector. You have a lot of skilled staff that are pivoting and changing industry, so that’s one thing that’s a major challenge,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan welcomed the new Covid-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) announced by the Government this week. However, he said that it was “not improving the supports that are initially in place for businesses” as it focused on those who could not avail of current schemes.
If restrictions were to continue, additional supports would be needed, he said.
Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy also noted that prolonged restrictions could present “ongoing difficulties for many businesses”.
However, Mr Healy said that many had now accepted the reality of extended restrictions, but with the understanding that, once they reopen, they would not have to close again.
“I think there’s an acceptance in terms of the extension of the restrictions now on the understanding and expectation that this will be the last lockdown period.
“It’s important that the supports match that ambition, but equally then that the rollout of the vaccination programme needs to operate very effectively… to ensure that, once we do come out of the current restrictions, that there is no risk of going back to further restrictions.”
He said that supports would have to be extended, stating that some sectors would need ongoing support into 2022, even if restrictions were to lift by the summer.
“Considering the level of support that has been given by Government over the last year, which has been very substantial, it would be counterproductive in the final phases to cut those supports too early and could ultimately lead to significant damage being done to those businesses.”