By Lydia O’Kane
Ireland is set to introduce harsher restrictions on Monday following a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The country confirmed 1,283 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday. There have been a total of 49,962 cases since the outbreak began, and 1,852 people have died.
Move to Level 4
The entire country will now move to Level 4 status but the government has ruled out a jump to Level 5, the highest level of Coronavirus restrictions.
Last week the government imposed Level 4 measures on three counties near the border with Northern Ireland which has been harder hit by COVID-19.
Under Level 4, only essential retail can stay open, and pupils can still attend school. Weddings can take place with up to 6 people. Funerals can also take place with a maximum of 25 people.
The stricter measures are expected to last between 3 to 4 weeks and experts are predicting major job losses and economic hardship.
Francis Brennan is one of Ireland’s best-known Hoteliers. Along with his brother, he runs the 5 star Park Hotel Kenmare, which is located in the southwest of the country.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, he said the hotel looks set to close for the time being, which will mean job losses.
“We are expecting to be closed down tonight for 4 weeks… so that means I have to let probably 55 staff go”
Among his staff are those with families and mortgages to pay. “I would look out for members of staff who are married with families that might be in need; I’d give them a few bob myself…to try and help them get through this difficult month ahead.” It’s all about having enough money to survive, he said.
Tourism and the pandemic
In Ireland, as in the rest of Europe, tourism has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic as quarantine measures in certain countries make it more difficult for people to travel for holidays and weekend breaks. Mr. Brennan pointed out that in Kenmare over the summer, some restaurants in the town didn’t open due to social distancing restrictions. “That’s unfortunate because they have to face the winter now and they’ll probably have to borrow money to survive into next year,” he said.
Asked whether Ireland will be able to bounce back from the impact of the virus, the Hotelier noted that unlike mainland Europe, Ireland is an island nation where connectivity is very important, and currently, the country’s airports have been devastated by the lack of passengers in recent months which is very hard to sustain. He also said the difficult decisions have yet to come.
As the country braces itself for yet harsher measures, many people are already making use of technology to tune into Church services. Mr. Brennan says he too has been following Masses online.
“The one I like the most is Glenstal Abbey, 10.00 on a Sunday morning; it’s a proper ceremony with proper singing and chanting, so I enjoy that.”