An interesting article by Mark Paul in today’s Irish Times looks at the neglect shown to SMEs by a government obsessed with what are now coming to be questionable health measures to the exclusion of the rapidly deteriorating economic situation the country faces.
He speaks the truth – although he speaks it only mildly – when he states that the “glacial pace of economic re-opening may satisfy the scientists but will spur hardship”.
The devastating effect of Covid-19 has been made all the more so by a – perhaps understandable – lack of clarity on what businesses such as restaurants and pubs should and should not do when they re-open. This, of course, has implications for any spend laid out to reflect Social Distancing around the ‘new normal’.
It’s clear that vintners around the country want some direction from government on the manner in which they should re-open their premises.
The National Public Health Emergency Team has suggested that as they’re not the experts in hospitality, this should be the prerogative of the industry itself to interpret the guidelines to fit their own particular circumstances.
Indeed, the Taoiseach himself, speaking on Dublin radio station FM104, said that the two metre rule was just a guideline, not the law or a regulation, yet he added, “Before we can relax that rule and maybe reduce it to one metre, which I know a lot of people would like, we just need to see the virus come down a bit more. We’re not at that point yet, but I think there’s a good chance we’ll get there, just not quite yet.”
Does this mean that soon one gastropub can adopt the one metre WHO Social Distancing guidelines while another can re-open using the HSE two metre guidelines? Such differences make a huge impact on a pub’s viability.
The Taoiseach has stated that he wants to accelerate the roadmap for re-opening the country but no judgement call can be made until next week’s figures become known “and we can see if we’re moving in the right direction”.
He added that if the infection rates can be kept under control, the re-opening phases can be brought forward. In this, surely, he reflects sober public opinion.
For Mark Paul observes, “The State says its research shows people want a very slow lockdown unwinding. But that is not a measure of their desires. It is a measure of their fear.”
Before hospitality expenditure on the scale that will be required can be considered by the industry to re-open ‘safely’, it’s surely incumbent upon the government of the day to nail a few colours to their mast so that the hospitality trade can get on with making their premises as safe as possible for their customers in the full knowledge that they’re doing the right thing by government.
As Mark Paul points out, “If the medics’ iron-clad influence over national decision-making is not counter-balanced from here on in by pragmatic and assertive economic voices, we risk a deep, self-inflicted gash in society and the economy”.
We hear you, Mark.