Republic of Ireland news

Republic's hospitality workers devastated by mid-summer reopening news, industry warns

"Our people are our greatest asset and yesterday 160,000 tourism people who have temporarily lost their jobs learned that their employment is unlikely to be restored until mid-summer"
Michael McHugh, PA

Around 160,000 hospitality workers who will not return to their jobs before mid-summer due to ongoing lockdown restrictions are devastated, hoteliers in the Republic of Ireland have said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin cited concern about uncertainties surrounding new variants of coronavirus and high numbers of infections as he gave a mid-summer date for potentially reopening the sector.

But Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, president of the Irish Hotels Federation, said the tourism community was shattered to learn of the tentative timeframe for reopening.

She warned: “The implications of yesterday’s announcement are huge in terms of confidence in the survival of Irish tourism.

“Our people are our greatest asset and yesterday 160,000 tourism people who have temporarily lost their jobs learned that their employment is unlikely to be restored until mid-summer.

“This is about real people and real livelihoods.”

Speaking on February 20, the Taoiseach said he does not foresee reopening pubs before the middle of the summer.

He added public health authorities want him to stick with the current restrictions until April and then reflect on the months ahead.

The Government is expected to update its Living With Covid plan next week.

Ms Fitzgerald Kane said her members are frustrated and anxious.

Prior to the pandemic, 270,000 people’s livelihoods were supported by tourism and 70% of these were outside of Dublin.

The industry representative said: “In some cases, whole communities are built around tourism.

“We are calling for an urgent review of the existing supports for the tourism and hospitality sector.

“If the all-important summer period is being eroded, additional supports are now required to safeguard businesses and the livelihoods they support until society reopens and the sector and wider tourism industry can recover.”

She also asked the Government to intervene with the banks to ensure they have appropriate support and engagement processes in place for businesses and team members until Covid-19 has been suppressed.

“Our community have been deeply affected over a prolonged period of time,” Ms Fitzgerald Kane said.

“Failure to provide adequate supports now will have long-term implications that could take years to repair.”

Meanwhile, musicians, entertainers and stage crew face a mortgage and loan crisis as the ban on live shows reaches its first anniversary.

The Music & Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI), which represents around 5,000 struggling performers, road crew and others, said workers in the industry are at greater risk of losing their businesses and homes unless systemic payment breaks are reactivated.

A survey carried out by MEAI shows that 21.2% of its members are struggling to repay their mortgages and 39.2% are having trouble repaying their business loans, while 58% experience difficulty in paying household bills.

Some 20% have had to seek help for mental health issues.

Spokesman Matt McGranaghan said: “The sector is bracing itself for another year of not being allowed to work, with restrictions on numbers for gatherings indoor and outdoors set to go beyond the summer.”

MEAI is urging the Government to reintroduce systemic payment breaks to help those who are struggling to meet their repayments at this time.

The industry has been under continuous lockdown since March 12 2020 and will be one of the last sectors to reopen, which the organisation said is now unlikely to happen until next year.

Three cases of the potentially more infectious Brazilian mutation have been detected in the Republic of Ireland.

They are directly associated with recent travel from the South American country, authorities have said.

They are being followed up by public health teams and enhanced measures have been put in place.

One more person has died with Covid-19, the Department of Health said.

Another 679 infections were confirmed.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said: “While the level of disease in our communities remains very high, we are still making progress.

“We have reported less than 1,000 cases each day this week and our seven-day average has fallen from 1,022 two weeks ago, to 862 last week, to 792 today. The number of people in hospital has fallen from over 1,200 two weeks ago, to 744 today.

“Do not underestimate the power of your actions as we seek to protect the gains we have made and further reduce transmission.

“This week, please continue to work from home unless essential and do not visit other households unless for essential reasons or as part of a support bubble.”

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