Hospitality organisations have warned that the reintroduction of Covid-19 restrictions for the Christmas period is a “hammer blow” to the sector.
range of restrictions will be in place from Tuesday until January 9, including the closure of nightclubs and strict social distancing requirements for bars and restaurants. The rules will see the hospitality sector largely revert to the situation before October 22, with a maximum of six adults per table and no multiple table bookings.
The news comes amid renewed concern about increased socialising at Christmas and the threat posed by the new Omicron variant of Covid.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has announced targeted support for the hospitality sector modelled on the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme which operated in the earlier phases of the pandemic.
This will supplement the support the sector is receiving under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).
Elaina Fitzgerald Kane of the Irish Hotels Federation said this “falls far short” of what is needed. “It is devastating that the Government has failed to restore employment supports for hotels, despite the collapse in business levels witnessed throughout the country by our sector,” she said.
“We are calling on the Government to revisit this decision and urgently restore EWSS supports to November levels.
“The Government’s failure to support our sector is all the more disappointing given the assurance received that we would not face a cliff-edge in terms of financial supports, but this is exactly what has happened.”
She said the reality was that the supports announced came nowhere close to being enough, given the extent to which hotels’ business levels have been decimated in recent weeks.
“Now, in addition to widespread cancellations, we face additional restrictions and significantly reduced government supports,” Ms Fitzgerald Kane said. “It is nothing short of a hammer blow to the sector.”
Restaurants Association of Ireland chief Adrian Cummins called for supports to be increased and backdated to help keep businesses afloat. “The EWSS scheme must return to 100pc level and backdated to December 1,” he said.
Licensed Vintners’ Association chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said: “This is a real blow to the nightclubs and late bars. Practical, effective and affordable solutions now need to be developed.”
Announcing the restrictions in a national address on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “This is not about going back to the days of lockdowns.
“Across the country, very many people in the hospitality and entertainment industries will be bitterly disappointed by this news. Many of them will be fearing for their livelihoods.
“I want to reassure them that, just as we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government will stand by them and ensure that they have the financial supports necessary to weather this latest storm and to stay intact until we are out of it.”
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