CORK’S business community is experiencing one of the highest levels of workplace absences since the beginning of the pandemic, according to local representatives.
It comes as latest figures show that 8,839 positive PCR tests for Covid-19 were reported in Cork for the 14 days to March 24. The figures do not include details of positive antigen results, and so the actual number of cases is likely to be higher.
“From talking with members over the past number of days, there seems to be a very large level of Covid cases and it is impacting workplaces,” said Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy.
“There is probably as high of a level of workplace absences due to Covid at the moment as there has been since the start of the pandemic.
“But businesses and employees are working together to get through it and hopefully cases will start to fall again over the next number of weeks,” said Mr Healy.
The Government is reported to be considering reducing the current seven-day isolation period for people who have contracted the virus, due to the impact of Covid-related absences on workforces.
In the US, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that asymptomatic patients finish isolating after five days.
Mr Healy said that local employers would adhere to any changes in public health guidelines.
“It is frustrating for businesses but in general, the spirit is quite positive. Everybody has been impacted by this at a personal level so there is a level of understanding,” said Mr Healy.
“Businesses have followed public health guidelines all the way along and if the guidelines do change then businesses will follow suit,” he said.
Liam Ryan of the Ryan Supervalu Group, which has three stores in Cork, told The Echo that while there has been a large number of absences among the group’s staff in recent days, he believes that anyone who is sick should stay at home as long as is needed.
“There are a lot of people out but it’s no worse than the spike after Christmas and we were expecting this spike after the long weekend,” Mr Ryan said. “We are coping and it’s a big help that close contacts no longer need to isolate.
“If you’re sick, you’re sick, and if you’re not able to work then you shouldn’t come in to work.”
President of the Cork Business Association, Eoin O’Sullivan, said that bar and restaurant owners are asking customers to be patient due to staff shortages.
“There has been a rise in absences, it is a challenge, and the recent spike is putting pressure on the business community,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“We would ask people to be patient if they’re going out to bars and restaurants over the coming days and to understand that staffing shortages are an issue.”