Covid wage subsidy levels may be retained to support hospitality

Ministers will consider retaining higher levels of financial supports for businesses at a special meeting today, as the Covid-19 situation worsens
Covid wage subsidy levels may be retained to support hospitality

Ministers will consider retaining higher levels of financial supports for businesses at a special meeting today, as the Covid-19 situation worsens.

The Cabinet subcommittee on economics will receive an update on financial supports as Covid cases surge and hospitality faces new restrictions, including the new midnight closing time for pubs and restaurants.

Industry sources told The Irish Times that restaurants, hotels and pubs had been hit by a huge number of cancellations of Christmas parties.

While a proposal is anticipated in relation to the employment wage subsidy scheme (EWSS), a number of sources said they did not expect the Government to reverse reductions in pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) from €250 per week to €200. The PUP reduction came into effect last week.

Opposition parties have been pushing for higher rates to be restored.

Employment

The EWSS gives businesses impacted by Covid-19 a subsidy per employee to keep them in employment.

Currently, payments for each employee are due to fall to €203 per week on December 1st, from the existing rates of €250 and €350. For those receiving €203 at present, this is currently due to fall to €151.

The subcommittee – which includes the five most senior Ministers in Government – will discuss delaying these reductions until after Christmas.

“The discussions in the days and weeks ahead will focus on the level of [EWSS] support in the context of the progression of the virus,” one senior source told The Irish Times.

Another Government source added that the wage subsidy scheme would have to be discussed.

“There is a lot of pressure on restaurants and hospitality which are seeing a lot of cancellations. There may be a proposal about leaving the EWSS rates unchanged.”

Representatives of the hospitality industry said public health changes and the new restrictions were having a negative impact on businesses.

“We have encountered a significant number of cancellations coming up to Christmas,” said Pádraig Cribben of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland. He said the current EWSS rates should be retained until 2022.

'Massive cancellations'

Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland said: “We are seeing massive cancellations in corporate bookings for Christmas parties and we are getting hit left, right and centre as a result."

A member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is urging people to cut their social contacts by 30 per cent to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Professor Philip Nolan, chair of Nphet's epidemiological modelling group, said Ireland's r-number is now "around 1.2" but could grow sharply.

PCR tests

His warning follows the unusual step taken by chief medical officer Tony Holohan who issued a statement overnight on Saturday night, warning people to use PCR tests over antigen tests, and reiterated the importance of mask-wearing, ventilation and social distancing in reducing the spread of the virus.

Health officials on Sunday confirmed 4,181 new cases of the virus.

That followed 5,959 cases, which were announced on Saturday. There were 669 people in hospital with Covid-19 this morning, including 125 in ICUs.

This comes as the number of Covid patients in University Hospital Limerick has reached 50. It is 37 in Cork University Hospital (CUH) and 26 in University Hospital Kerry (UHK) according to the HSE.

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