You may well have heard it said that "the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain", and this has never been truer than now. However, while Ireland has had its share of trials and tribulations, it is a past-master at rolling with the punches.
Roadmap to ReopeningThe Irish authorities have a phased plan to reopen the economy safely, with each stage subject to government review.
The country is currently in the third phase of lockdown loosening, with travel within Ireland more broadly permitted, working from home advised, and the opening of most retail outlets now allowed, along with many restaurants and some leisure facilities.
Phase four had been planned for 20 July, but on 16 July the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, officially postponed the fourth phase until 10 August, pending government approval.
Phase four is expected to include:
- A return to onsite working in industries in which this hasn't yet taken place
- The reopening of pubs, nightclubs, bars, hotel bars, and casinos
- Permission for gatherings of up to 100 people indoors, and 500 outside.
Return to Work Safely
Whichever sector you're in, health and safety is key. Ireland's government has created a 'Return to Work Safely Protocol' document to form the basis of a workplace's COVID-19 response plan.
- Physical distancing, in the workplace and during breaks
- Staggered times for work and breaks, to reduce unnecessary social contacts
- Making 'remote' meetings the norm, reducing travel and face-to-face contact
- Extra facilities for card and contactless payments
- Physical barriers where distancing isn't possible
The appointment of a key person as a point of contact, with overall responsibility for oversight of all things COVID-related, is recommended.
Face coverings must be worn by customers in shops throughout Ireland. Retail staff must also wear the face-covering, unless there is a partition between them and members of the public or a gap of at least two metres at all times.
Additional sector- and industry-specific guidelines may supplement these general requirements.
Returning to the office could raise HR issues, which should be dealt with under a company's existing occupational health programmes where possible, signposting publicly accessible schemes where it is not.
The government guidelines emphasise that 'at risk' workers (such as those with significant underlying health conditions) should continue to work from home or be supported to physically distance in the workplace where this isn't possible.
The Irish government continues to advise against all non-essential foreign travel, and travellers entering Ireland from most other countries are required to self-isolate for at least 14 days and fill in a passenger locator form.
Travellers arriving to Ireland from certain countries are not subject to these restrictions, as specified in the Green List. As of 23 July, the Green List countries can be found here.
Many Irish businesses also have to consider working capital and cashflow issues arising from loss of business during lockdown. There are, however, a number of programs in place in Ireland for businesses adversely affected by the pandemic, including loans on beneficial terms, equity investment, grants, and various other supports and mentoring schemes. Whatever the size of the business and its needs, there is likely to be something on offer to suit.
The current situation is a challenging and evolving one, requiring businesses to be both forward-thinking and flexible. However, the creation of a secure and timely framework to assist firms as the Irish economy continues to open up is likely to help ease the transition and ensure that businesses emerge strongly from the crisis.
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