Irish companies fearing a second lockdown as business slowly resumes

Galway Daily news

A recent report by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has revealed that 64.1% of businesses in Ireland perceive a second lockdown to be one of their top concerns going forward.

The biweekly report, which chronicles the business impact of COVID-19 on Irish businesses, was released based on a survey of 3000 organisations. 

It comes on the heels of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country. The first three weeks of August recorded over 1,800 cases.

Although the deaths have been minimal compared with other months, it still causes concern among business owners.

The rise in cases has led to a delay in moving out of the lockdown restrictions imposed by the government for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fourth phase of the lockdown easing, which was scheduled to begin on August 10, ended up being delayed, with tighter restrictions imposed instead on gatherings due to the spike in cases.

Pubs and bars which don’t serve food have continuously had their reopening time delayed, and it has only now been agreed that they should reopen on September 21.

Although the country has not fully turned the curve upwards into a second wave, there are corners that the situation might be heading in that direction.

When appearing before the special committee on a Covid-19 response, Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, acknowledged that the situation has been deteriorating for the past couple of months, especially since the restrictions were lifted.

At the same meeting, Philip Nolan, Chairman of the Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group at the National Public Health Emergency Team, remarked that the country was at an important juncture when it came to keeping the virus controlled. 

Although the Government remains confident, the current trend of cases is not encouraging for businesses.

Even if a nationwide lockdown is not reinstated, other restrictions such as work-from-home may be compelled based on the ongoing trend. Such policies may prove to be a death knell for many businesses, especially the small ones.

While most businesses have already resumed work, they are still not operating as usual; the CSO report highlighted that, on average, 59.2% of employees are still working from home.

As was shown in the survey, 62.9% of the employees at small enterprises are currently working from their offices as opposed to large enterprises, which had 51.1% of their staff working at the offices.

Micro enterprises would be most hit by any further lockdown restrictions, with only 18.1% of their staff currently working from home.

The Government has introduced a number of support schemes and grants to help businesses stay afloat during these difficult times.

There is the Business Support Call Centre helping business owners navigate through various financial supports, training and guidance to help their businesses mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

It is also worth noting that most of the initiatives available to businesses before the pandemic, such as the R&D tax credits  are still there for the eligible businesses to take advantage of.