WITH the number of Covid-19 cases soaring, many businesses across Clare have either closed or reduced their operations as 2022 begins.
Post-Christmas statistics for the prevalence of Covid-19 in Clare are not available as yet, but record figures have been seen nationally this week. Anecdotal evidence does suggest a huge amount of infections in this county.
While the vast majority of people are vaccinated and many of those infected have only had mild symptoms, the requirement for isolation means many people are not in a position to attend their places of work.
Mayor of Clare PJ Ryan runs an oil business and on Wednesday he said two of his staff were absent due to Covid.
He warned that the impact on business is likely to be very serious throughout the month of January.
“Covid is definitely very prevalent in the area and it’s seriously going to affect businesses over the next number of weeks. If the numbers keep going up it’ll have a massive effect and there’s very little anyone can do about it.”
He said that certain small family businesses will effectively be closed as soon as one person is infected, while he said the prevalence of the disease will result in large scale absences in bigger firms.
On the positive side, he said that reducing isolation times could be helpful, and that the Omicron variant doesn’t seem to hit people as hard.
“It’s not a serious a variant as what we had before, three or four days and people seem to overcome it.”
He warned that Clare County Council’s ability to provide services is also being hindered.
“A lot of the staff in the Council would have family members who tested positive and obviously they are close contacts and can’t come in,” said the cathaoirleach.
Councillor Ryan said that the peak of the current wave may be reached relatively soon, with a reduction in case numbers possible within a couple of weeks.
Ennis hotelier Allen Flynn said that while he has managed to stay going, this is an extremely difficult time for business.
“We haven’t closed, but the mixture of positive cases, those diagnosed as close contacts, and those awaiting results of PCR tests, has played havoc with business. The numbers are escalating rapidly.”
Mr Flynn runs the Old Ground Hotel, and he said that they have reduced services for the next few weeks, but have not closed down.
“Here, we would have commitments in terms of our accommodation, companies in Shannon and that, which would still continue to use us. So we’re trying to provide accommodation and then the bar is open from 10 to 8 every day for food.”
He said that in the last week of 2021 it was becoming apparent to him that many more people were being affected by the virus.
“It probably started to affect us on December 28, that’s when we noticed there were a high number of cancellations coming through, they were coming in on a daily basis.
“We also had a huge increase in people awaiting tests, being diagnosed as positive or close contacts.”
Numerous businesses are closing entirely, at what is a relatively quiet time, he added.
“A number of places have decided to close up for a number of weeks. It’s January, and then as a precaution for customers and staff, they made that decision to close for a few weeks.”
He feels that the level of compliance with Covid regulations is quite good.
“We would certainly feel that people have taken the restrictions much more seriously this year than last year. Customers are much more accommodating, if there are longer wait times and things like that, they are more accommodating.
“I think businesses are also taking it seriously, they’re seeing that hopefully it’s the last variant we’re going to see with major restrictions, so we’re all trying to comply with them as much as possible.”
He said he is hopeful that things will stabilise later this month, with the current wave having peaked.
Mr Flynn also said that businesses need to be able to begin to adjust to a new world.
“None of us in business know what that new normal is going to be, but we need to get to that point so we can adjust what we can do with our business then.”
He said that there are a lot of enquiries about ‘staycations’ next summer, business that will be very welcome if international travel is still far less significant than pre-pandemic.
Darragh O’Connor runs the Texaco station in Shannon, next to the Town Centre, and January 1, 2022 was the first New Year’s Day in 45 years that the doors had to remain closed.
Speaking to the Clare Champion on Wednesday, he said the pandemic had left him with a serious shortage of staff.
“All I had was family, there was my daughter, my son and myself to run it, because we had six members of staff out. We haven’t been able to open our deli yet, it’s opening this Thursday because we got the all clear from the HSE, but it has been a nightmare, an absolute nightmare.”
While the station was open for most days during the festive season, the hours were greatly reduced.
“We could only run a skeleton shift from 10 to 4 o’clock.”
He said that he expects to be back to normal operations from early next week.
Larger firms are also hit by staff absences and have had to adjust their operations also.
Shannon-based Zimmer Biomet said that it has kept going despite the challenges being faced.
“We are adhering to all Covid regulations and while some team members are unable to attend work, Zimmer Biomet has a solid business continuity plan in place so that we continue to serve our customers during this difficult period.”