23 February 2021
By Elaine Murphy
Deepening and extension of supports must be matched by the acceleration of vaccine rollout
Paula Cogan, Cork Chamber President said, “The announcement today from Government does not provide enough clarity on sectoral reopening timelines. Ongoing ambiguity will cause further frustration for the businesses that have been desperately working to plan for re-opening, while supporting their valued employees and suppliers in this extremely challenging environment. While the areas influencing Government decision making on the reopening of society have been outlined as community transmission levels, hospital and ICU occupancy and the vaccine programme, precise detail on these targets and the resulting impacts have yet to be communicated.
The continuation of restrictions will undoubtedly cause deeper financial harm to individual businesses, to mental health and wellbeing and to communities across the region. While we acknowledge the necessity of these restrictions to safeguard our population, it must be noted that each additional week of restriction is taking its toll as businesses remain closed, employees remain out of work and the long term impact on our exchequer continues to mount.
The extension of COVID supports must continue far beyond June as it is now clear the pandemic impact will extend beyond this date. While the current extension offers some relief to those affected, the qualifying criteria still mean that there are swathes of businesses left without adequate support, and this cannot continue to be the case. The rapid deployment of the Business Aid Scheme is essential as one immediate step in this regard.
The vaccination targets outlined by An Taoiseach need to be pursued with relentless determination. Every step of progress made in protecting our population will in turn help to protect our economy and competitive global standing. The pandemic is a national crisis and Government must ensure that all agencies have the supports and resources required to hit clearly communicated milestones. Nothing short of excellence in execution is now required to ensure that this moment in time will be reflected upon by future generations as a reference of an exemplary response to an emergency.
As we once again face an extension to restrictions, more precise communications and metric oriented milestones are required by businesses of every sector, size and composition. We cannot underestimate the need for certainty, and clarity of process. Togetherness has powered our nation over this last year, and it must now more than ever, be matched by precision in planning if it is to yield results. We must, once again, place the due value in that togetherness as we step towards a return to meaningful societal and economic activity.”