Covid-19: Move to level 4 or 5 would be 'massive blow' to Ireland's retail sector

Covid-19: Move to level 4 or 5 would be 'massive blow' to Ireland's retail sector

But Retail Ireland says that such a move would "involve the closure of thousands of retail businesses," with "tens of thousands of retail staff out of work" in the run up to the Christmas trading period. Picture: Sam Boal /RollingNews.ie

Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the Irish retail sector, says that any move to close down “non-essential” retail would be "a massive blow" to a sector still recovering from the lockdown earlier in the year.

Retail Ireland's remarks come as the government meets to decide what further restrictions will be introduced later today. 

As Covid-19 cases rise across the country, it is expected that the Government will move Ireland to a mix of levels 4 and 5 of the 'Living with Covid' plan.

But Retail Ireland says that such a move would "involve the closure of thousands of retail businesses," with "tens of thousands of retail staff out of work" in the run up to the Christmas trading period. 

In a statement issued this morning, the group said: "While government supports are in place for affected businesses, those without a developed online offering will particularly struggle. 

Many retailers around the country are relying on the Christmas trading period to stay in business.

Retail Ireland Director Arnold Dillon said: “No other European country is actively looking at the level of nationwide retail restrictions currently being considered for Ireland. 

"The retail sector has radically transformed how it operates, with face masks, social distancing and other hygiene measure, to ensure a safe and highly controlled environment for customers and staff. 

"With only a fraction of Covid clusters linked to retail settings, it is crucial that policymakers set out the risk assessment that has informed this decision and a strategy for unwinding any measures introduced."

Mr Dillon added that Covid-19 would likely "be with us for some time" and that customers would need "ready access to the products they require on a regular basis.”

Echoing Retail Ireland's remarks, Retail Excellence, another group representing Irish retailers said that all retail should be classified as 'essential.'

The group says that forced closure of ‘non-essential’ retail at this time of year would do "permanent and serious damage" to the Irish non-food retail sector, and would end up "costing an additional 60,000 jobs."

In a statement, Retail Exellence said: "Any move to level 4 or above will have a devastating impact on the retail industry, particularly those smaller retailers not yet trading online. 

We cannot shut down the industry at this time of the year.

"All retail should be classed as ‘essential’ especially, we cannot simply ‘kill off Christmas’. 

Retail Excellence noted that retailers in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in Europe remain open despite high infection rates.

"A further 60,000 jobs are at risk in addition to the 30,000 that have already been lost in the industry," the statement added.

Covid-19 'fear factor' is gone, leading doctor warns

Imposing increased Covid-19 restrictions will only work if there is compliance from the public, a leading intensive care consultant has warned. 

The government is expected to announce a move to a mix of levels 4 and 5 later today.

Dr Colman O'Loughlin said the 'fear factor', which was present during the first wave of the virus in the Spring, is now missing.

A Pug dog looks out the window of a car as Gardai conduct a Covid-19 checkpoint on the N7 at Blackchurch. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

A Pug dog looks out the window of a car as Gardai conduct a Covid-19 checkpoint on the N7 at Blackchurch. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

He supports increasing restrictions, he told RTÉ Radio, but said escalating restrictions will only work if there is high compliance from the public.

The director of Critical Care Medicine at the Mater Hospital also expressed concern about staffing levels in intensive care units. 

There are well laid-out plans for where critical care or intensive care beds can be found in the event of a surge, but the problem is the lack of extra staff, he said.

It takes up to six months to train an intensive care nurse, he added.

The HSE has surge plans in place in all hospitals which can identify where beds and ventilators are, “but we don’t know where the staff are.” 

Some of the staff who had commenced ICU training in April and May returned to regular nursing duties over the summer. 

Nurses were busy with post-operative care and could not be taken away for training, he explained.

There was “a huge amount of sacrifice” made by patients who had elective procedures postponed, that had eased intensive care pressure in the Spring, he said.

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