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'Uncertainty and irritation': IBEC chief Danny McCoy takes aim at NPHET members over communications

IBEC has called for an early exit from Level 5 for retailers.

Image: LEAH FARRELL

MEMBERS OF THE National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) are causing “uncertainty and irritation” for business owners in the manner in which they communicate with the public via the media, Ireland’s top business lobbyist has claimed.

Danny McCoy, chief executive of IBEC — the largest business lobbying group in the State — also called for “a sequential easing of restrictions to begin from the last week of November” for retailers and hospitality businesses, instead of 2 December as planned.

“While IBEC fully acknowledges the continuing need for vigilance, the manner of communications in the media from members of NPHET 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 told the Taoiseach.

McCoy’s remarks are contained in a letter sent to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and senior government ministers yesterday.

It comes ahead of a Cabinet decision, due by the end of next week, on how the country is to move out of Level 5.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Programme this morning, McCoy said, “We haven’t lost confidence in the government nor in NPHET, because they’re doing their best, they’re using the information as best they can. But the communication is awful.”

He accused members of NPHET of “kite-flying” through the media, which he said “does limit the government’s choices but it also gives frustration to the general public”.

But he said that Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has a role to play as an adviser to the government.

‘Urgent concerns’

McCoy said that business owners have “very serious and urgent concerns” about the current restrictions.

“The current measures impact upon a large swathe of businesses through restrictions on retail deemed to be non-essential, food and drink services, hospitality, international travel and office-based environments,” he said.

“The blanket suppression of these sectors continues to lack any refinement despite learnings and evidence accumulated since last March.”

This approach “lacks empathy,” McCoy claimed, “and is at this point in the crisis creating much greater economic and social damage than is necessary”.

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Level 5 public health restrictions are due to expire on 2 December but McCoy called on ministers to prioritise an early reopening of the retail, hospitality and travel sectors from the last week of November.

“Opening businesses in a controlled manner would be a far safer option than keeping everything closed and seeing restrictions ignored by the general public.

“The six weeks of Level 5 restrictions, in addition to prior weeks of restrictions in many counties, has had the desired effect of bringing about a substantial decline in the targeted metrics. Greater enforcement is required to drive the metrics down further,” McCoy said.

He called for “prior and meaningful engagement” with affected businesses to be included in government decision-making and communications.

Requesting an urgent meeting between ministers and IBEC, McCoy said that “confidence in the Plan for Living with Covid-19 and the guidance within the level restrictions is diminishing within the business community”.

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