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People eating and drinking outside on Friday. Leah Farrell/

Twelve trade associations and 429 individual businesses send open letter to Government over Level 5 fears

The Restaurants Association of Ireland has said the government should reject Nphet’s advice.

LAST UPDATE | 5 Oct 2020

TWELVE TRADE ASSOCIATIONS and 429 individual businesses have today written to the Taoiseach expressing their “significant concerns” about the response to Covid-19.

The letter is co-signed by 216 hotels, 115 pubs and bars, 52 companies from the event sector or that supply the drinks and hospitality sector, 19 alcoholic drinks suppliers, 27 food and non-drinks suppliers and 12 trade associations on behalf of their entire membership.

The companies that signed today’s letter together employ thousands of people in Ireland. Their impact reaches well beyond those who are directly employed, and touches every city, town, village and rural community, with a far-reaching supply chain.

The letter says that many businesses operating in the experience economy are being hit disproportionately.

The traders claim that the current Irish approach risks “not just short term, but long-lasting and irreparable damage to the economy and Irish society”.

In total, the experience sector contributes €4.5 billion in wages, salaries and employment taxes every year. More than 330,000 people are either employed directly or supported directly by demand from the sector.

The letter urges the Government to look to best practice internationally and to countries that have managed to keep their hospitality sector open while at the same time taking clear and targeted approaches to controlling the spread of the disease in communities.

It also calls for a much more targeted set of measures and supports for the sectors most impacted by Covid, and its restrictions.

Earlier, the CEO of The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) has said that “180,000 jobs will be gone” if the country moves to Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.

Last night, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommended that the government implement Level 5 of its Covid-19 roadmap.

The leaders of the three coalition parties are set to meet with Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan today about the advice, with the ultimate decision on whether to move to the highest level of lockdown to be taken by Cabinet. 

Under Level 5 , restaurants and pubs can only operate as takeaway or food delivery services. Only essential retail outlets will be allowed to remain open, and hotels can only open for essential non-social or non-tourist purposes.

In a statement, the RAI has described Nphet’s recommendation as “surprising, unexplainable and economically unreasonable”, urging the government not to follow the advice of the health experts.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, CEO of the RAI Adrian Cummins added that it would be “catastrophic” for the industry. 

“That Nphet have recommended to governments to go into Level 5, considering that there are certain counties that are doing extremely well in the fight against Covid. There are counties where the cases are above 100(on incidence rate) , we in the Restaurant Association of Ireland have called for and we’re still looking for the international evidence that says that our industry is the cause of the transmission. We haven’t seen that evidence yet,” he said.

We haven’t seen that evidence yet but if the government move to Level 5 it’s going to be catastrophic for our industry, you’re talking about at least 180,000 jobs that will be gone in our industry. And many businesses that are currently on the edge will never return again. And that’s the seriousness now of where we are at the moment. 

Speaking on the same programme, Chief Executive Of Vintners’ Federation of Ireland Padraig Cribben said that Level 5 would mean “a big percentage” of business would go under. 

“This is not living with Covid. This is death by Covid, it’s death by Covid for the businesses certainly that I represent, a big percentage,” he said. 

Cribben also criticised the manner at which the advice from Nphet was leaked last night. 

“It is a decision for government to make but it is quite worrying that an advisory body to government seem to have a nine o’clock deadline for the news. To get a headline out there. I don’t think that’s the way we should be doing business. I think advisors should advise, the government now have to start governing,” he said. 

Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the retail sector, said any move to close significant swathes of retail as part of new Covid restrictions would have a devastating impact on thousands of businesses and jobs. 

“The economic and social costs would be enormous, thousands of businesses and jobs would be at risk. This must be avoided. No evidence has been presented that retail settings are a significant cause of Covid transmission,” Retail Ireland Director Arnold Dillon said.


With reporting by Garreth MacNamee 

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