Emma Dunphy, Deputy CEO said “We are deeply concerned that the current increase in Covid cases is putting pressure on an already challenged health system and the actions which cabinet decided upon yesterday are half-measures which are unlikely to have the effect that government is hoping for. Our concern is that further measures will be needed in another few weeks.
It is impossible for businesses to operate in an environment where government recommendations, and public health advice, are undergoing reversals on a week-by-week basis.
Businesses need to know what further measures are likely to be introduced should the current circumstances continue to decline at the present rate, and also what measures are likely to occur should the worsening accelerate.
With the increasing likelihood of further measures being needed, government need to recognise that businesses which have had their activities restricted will require immediate supports, including wage subsidies, commercial rates waivers, and the reintroduction of restart grants for businesses where their operations are curtailed entirely.
There is a growing lack of confidence within the business community regarding the government’s pandemic planning and there is a serious concern that we are moving towards another post-Christmas ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown.
Businesses are paying the price for a continued lack of action among the unvaccinated, and as a result of a reduction in effective public health measures, such as masking, in the vaccinated population.
With almost 200,000 PCR tests being conducted on weekly basis, Covid-19 testing is becoming harder to access. Government needs to take immediate action on making antigen tests more obtainable. In order to mitigate the need for further restrictions, we call on Government to accelerate the vaccine booster programme.
Legislation needs to be brought forward to allow employers to require that their employees have a vaccinated status, where unvaccinated employees could pose a risk to others.
The Finance Bill also needs to be amended to ensure that Ministers will have the flexibility needed to ensure that state supports are not being withdrawn while lockdowns and other economic restrictions are simultaneously being reintroduced.
Businesses need to ensure that the mask mandate is strictly enforced across all enclosed spaces, and government needs to take action to ensure that businesses are enabled to do so.”