ISME writes to the Taoiseach to call for strategic approach to the management of Covid following the reimposition of public health restrictions
ISME has written to the Taoiseach following the following the reimposition of public health restrictions on Monday (20th December). While recognising the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in Ireland, ISME has called on the Government to implement a strategic approach to the management of Covid, pointing to the impacts that the recurrent lockdown announcements are having on the structure of the SME base in the country.
ISME is encouraging Government to develop a staged approach to the management of further variants, where the public and businesses know in advance what measures will apply when caseloads get too high.
Neil McDonnell, CEO of ISME said: “Many businesses across the retail and hospitality sectors earn a disproportionate amount of their annual revenues in December. And many of these businesses are in those sectors worst affected by the pandemic. Given the likelihood that Omicron will not be the last variant of Covid-19 that we will face, we urgently need a coherent Government strategy to enable us to live with this virus (or any future viral pandemic), which includes prearranged public health measures and restrictions once certain infection criteria are reached.
We cannot afford a continuation of short-notice, ad hoc measures of the type announced last week in response to disease case numbers. The reimposition of restrictions on the hospitality sector will have long-term implications for its ability to attract and retain skilled labour, raise capital or acquire property.”
Calling for a review of NPHET in early 2022, Neil McDonnell added: “NPHET modelling, and advice has been less accurate than we would expect from our public health advisors. It is just over a year since we wrote to the Tánaiste to ask for an active program of testing workers returning to Ireland post-Christmas, and for assistance with workplace testing of employees, which was not implemented. In addition, the resistance of NPHET to RADT and air purification, and its effective rejection of the Report of the COVID-19 Rapid Testing Group last April, makes a review of the composition of this team imperative early in the New Year.”
The Government must also focus on the needs of the indigenous enterprise sector in 2022, as the nation is highly dependent on a small number of foreign multinationals for employment and corporation tax.
Neil McDonnell added: “With the FMC sector forecast to perform very well in 2022, and GDP again likely to rise faster than GNI*, it is essential that the weight of the State’s attention is focussed on the indigenous enterprise sector in 2022 and beyond. The FMC sector continues to deliver in terms of large-scale employment and corporation tax. However, the lack of diversification among our FMC base, the overdependence of the corporation tax base on a small number of companies, and the absence of productivity growth in our SME base are well noted in the latest National Risk Assessment. While we look forward to urgent and rapid progress in the New Year on the ten priority areas identified by the SME and Entrepreneurship Implementation Group, it remains our position that the knowledge deficits among SME owners and managers can only be bridged by a dedicated program of basic business training such as that we have proposed in our “Blue Cert” for business.”
Read the full letter here