Focus on critical care capacity rather than shutting businesses, Ibec says

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Digital Desk staff

A lobby group for Ireland’s tourism and hospitality sectors has said the Government's focus should be on improving critical care bed capacity rather than “shutting down portions of our economy for periods on end”.

The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) has said Covid-19 restrictions are “disproportionately” impacting Ireland’s “experience economy,” which encompasses the tourism and hospitality sector along with its supply chain.

The group has called for the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to publish data underpinning its recommendation to close Ireland’s hospitality sector, while also calling for improved communication between Government and industry stakeholders.

“It is evident that we must learn to ‘live’ more effectively with this virus in our communities so to speak. We need to protect our vulnerable people – those who are vulnerable to the virus but also those who need society to function for mental health, education and development and for businesses to complete in a global environment," Ibec Director of Member Services, Sharon Higgins, said.

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“The availability of an appropriate level of critical care beds based on best international practice is central to this. Yet, we are currently at 6.5 beds per 100,000 versus Germany’s 29.2 according to recent figures.

"Addressing issues such as these, rather than shutting down portions of our economy for periods on end will stand better in the long-run to our capacity to overcome the challenges posed by this virus.”

EU countries

The group described Ireland’s containment measures as “exceptionally stringent in comparison to other EU countries” who have “managed to keep their businesses in the experience economy and their borders open while at the same time managing the spread of the disease in communities.”

Ms Higgins said the industry was currently attempting to operate under “vague” criteria introduced at short notice.

Affording only 24 hours notice of such increased restrictions has potentially devastating cost implications for managing perishable stock and workforce planning, along with financial and psychological hardship for employees and employers alike.

“Businesses across the experience economy have proven over the past number of months that they can operate in a highly controlled, safe environment,” she said.

“Yet despite this, the industry finds itself operating essentially under Level 4 protocols currently, while being subjected to ongoing vague and seemingly changing criteria.

“The industry understands that the need for phased restrictions may arise. However, affording only 24 hours notice of such increased restrictions has potentially devastating cost implications for managing perishable stock and workforce planning, along with financial and psychological hardship for employees and employers alike.”

Ms Higgins said the “experience economy” supports the jobs of more than 330,000 people and contributes €4.5 billion in wages.

“In the short-term, Budget 2021 must deliver financial support for those businesses in the experience economy who are struggling to stay afloat,” she said.

“This includes targeted financial support to specifically compensate for the losses associated with perishable products going off on foot of last-minute Government lockdown restrictions or closure notices; reductions in VAT and excise rates, extending waivers on commercial rates, embracing innovative sustainability, amongst others.”

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