Quarter of retail stores forced to temporarily close or reduce hours amid Omicron surge

ireland
Quarter Of Retail Stores Forced To Temporarily Close Or Reduce Hours Amid Omicron Surge Quarter Of Retail Stores Forced To Temporarily Close Or Reduce Hours Amid Omicron Surge
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A quarter of retailers have had to close their doors for a period of time, or reduce trading hours, as a result of Covid related staff shortages.

As reported in The Irish Times, the current wave of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19 is having a significant impact on businesses with staff out of work because they tested positive for the virus or have been deemed a close contact.

A survey by Retail Excellence found that some retailers have had up to 20 per cent of employees absent from work due to Covid-19.

Duncan Graham, managing director of Retail Excellence, said many of its members were operating with a “skeleton staff”.

“About 25 per cent said they had been forced to close for a period of time, which could be shorter hours or closing for a full day or something,” Mr Graham said.

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“If things don’t improve, 50 per cent said they would anticipate having to close for a period of time in the coming weeks.

“At the moment, you’ve got a situation where you don’t know whether from one day to the next what your staffing situation is going to be like tomorrow morning.”

The recent staff shortages are “primarily” a result of the close contact isolation rules, Mr Graham said, adding that if they were eased the situation would improve.

“Clearly there are people who are off because they contracted the virus, but it’s the close contact rules that are causing the biggest problem.”

According to Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI), at present 30 per cent of restaurants are unable to open due to Covid-19 related issues.

“The close contact rule is having an awful effect on our industry because if you lose somebody in the kitchen, then the whole kitchen is down and the place closes, even if those within the kitchen have no symptoms,” Mr Cummins said.

'Hurting hard'

As well as retailers, staff shortages have been proving to have a significant impact on the healthcare system.

Commenting on staff numbers, chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid said nearly 15,000 staff are out due to Covid-19, this is out of a total 120,000.

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“The number of staff we have out with Covid is really hurting hard,” Mr Reid said.

Pharmacies have also been feeling the pressure, with the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) warning of closures and reduced opening hours due to staff shortages.

Earlier this week, the union urged people to plan ahead and wherever possible order required medications, such as repeat prescriptions, well in advance.

“Doing so will alleviate the pressures on pharmacies while ensuring no interruption in medicine supply,” it said.

Meanwhile, Irish Rail has said 96 per cent of services would be operating this week. It warned commuters of a limited number of cancellations to the Hazelhatch/Newbridge to Grand Canal Dock services, Carlow / Portlaoise / Newbridge to Heuston and Limerick to Ballybrophy.

Also this week, An Post have issued customers with a warning of a temporary strain on services due to staff absences.

“Like many businesses, An Post is currently experiencing a significant increase in Covid-19 related absence,” An Post said in a statement.

“This is placing a temporary strain on our resources which may impact on our regular service delivery levels across our mails & parcels delivery network, and at some post offices.

“We have a range of contingency plans in place, and our staff and postmasters are working hard to minimise the impact on customers.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this situation may cause. The health & safety of our staff and customers is our priority.

According to the postal service, where any post office has to temporarily close, social welfare benefit payments will be transferred to a neighbouring office.

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