The chief executive of employer’s group Ibec has told the Government
that there is serious and urgent concern in the business community
around the current phase of Covid related restrictions.
Danny McCoy also called on the Government to allow the retail,
hospitality and travel sectors to reopen as a priority ahead of
Christmas, with a sequential easing of restrictions beginning in the
last week of November.
He said Ibec is seeking immediate prior and meaningful engagement
with the firms most affected when the Government is making policy
decisions and communicating them.
Mr McCoy outlined Ibec’s position in a letter sent to the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and a number of senior ministers and officials.
He said the current measures impact upon a large swathe of businesses
and claimed the blanket suppression of these sectors continues to lack
any refinement, despite learnings and evidence accumulated since last
“This approach lacks empathy and is at this point in the crisis
creating much greater economic and social damage than is necessary,” he
Mr McCoy said opening businesses in a controlled manner would be a
far safer option then keeping everything closed and seeing restrictions
ignored by the public.
He also wrote that while the six weeks of Level 5 restrictions has brought about a substantial decline in Covid cases, greater enforcement is needed to reduce infection rates further.
The Ibec boss described how the manner of communications in the media from members of the National Public Health Emergency Team continues to be a source of “uncertainty and irritation for businesses and the public in making necessary plans for the coming crucial period of Christmas”.
“This pattern, now seemingly embedded, in limiting the choice for
Government is one we understood you and colleagues were going to
address,” he said.
He added that it is “intolerable” that four weeks into the Level 5
restrictions, a promised review by Government is not setting out the
easing of restrictions on the businesses “upon which the resources of
the State ultimately depend”.
“Our members take their role in suppressing the virus seriously and
have demonstrated their commitment to, and investment in, doing so since
we started addressing this crisis together in March,” he said.
Mr McCoy called on the Government to engage with businesses prior to
making decisions and to create communication channels early with them.
Ibec also wants to have the retail, hospitality and travel sectors
reopened as a priority ahead of Christmas, with a sequential easing of
restrictions beginning in the last week of November, leading to a Level 3
opening by the start of December.
This should give way to Level 2 by early December, Mr McCoy stated, a
strategy that would ensure crowding in retail areas is avoided.
In relation to international travel, Mr McCoy said the Government
must ensure it can proceed on the basis of the EU colour coding system
and testing, including the use of Antigen tests alongside PCR.
The Government must also “ensure the importance of the Return to Office ambition is not lost in this phase”.
“As the current restriction levels provide for no substantial return
until well into 2021, it must be a priority to have these level
restrictions modified in order to support business planning for the
return of a much higher percentage of office workers early in 2021,” Mr
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr McCoy said Chief Medical
Officer Tony Holohan has a role to play as an adviser to government.
But he criticised members of the National Public Health Emergency
Team for “kite-flying” in media interviews, saying this led to knee-jerk
reactions that frustrates public and businesses.