Omincron has ‘devastating impact’ on local businesses in Fingal, House chief says

Omnicron and the restrictions brought by the Covid variant are having a “devastating impact” on local businesses, according to the chief executive of Fingal Chamber.

s CEO of Fingal Chamber, Anthony Cooney understands better than anyone the impact of the current Omicron wave on local businesses.

He also has direct experience of the Covid crisis. Like thousands of others in north County Dublin, Mr Cooney was working from home when questioned by Fingal Independent, having contracted the virus. Fortunately, his symptoms were mild – but he still had to restrict his movements according to public health guidelines.

“In the days leading up to Covid, you were just going on if you caught a cold,” he said. “These days are very different and there is a lot more disruption. “

Mr. Cooney pointed out that not all industries are suitable for working from home, such as food processing, distribution and transportation. Before Christmas, he said the main challenge for businesses – especially the hospitality industry – was recruiting. By the arrival of 2022, this problem was replaced by absenteeism.

“There are thousands of employees stuck at home, having contracted Covid-19 or identified as close contacts,” he said. “This situation is proving to be very difficult for many companies across Fingal.”

Mr Cooney said the introduction of restrictions before Christmas, particularly the 8pm rule for hospitality, was “in effect a shutdown order for everything but the name.”

“The message was basically that we shouldn’t go to a restaurant or a bar,” he said. “It had a devastating impact, not just on the guy who runs the pub, but on the guy who supplies the pub.

“I don’t think turkeys have ever been so cheap as they were at Christmas, because there was no food market.”

Mr Cooney believes Covid-19 supports to businesses should be extended at least until the end of June, with additional help offered on a case-by-case basis if needed. He commended the government and local authorities for introducing timely financial measures.

“When it came to boosting subsidies and distributing money quickly to businesses, Fingal County Council was only miles ahead,” he said.

Mr Cooney said the effect of Covid on the aviation industry has been particularly problematic. Dublin Airport has long been Fingal’s economic engine, supporting thousands of jobs and local businesses. In the past two years, however, the record number of passengers at the airport has been reduced to a trickle.

Mr Cooney said there had been significant job losses at the Dublin Airport Authority and restrictions on international travel had resulted in the absence of tourists. He agrees with the government’s decision to remove the need for travelers arriving in the country to produce a negative Covid test if they are fully vaccinated, describing it as “a good decision”.

He pledged that Fingal Chamber would continue to play its role in helping local businesses turn around. He said members have access to information on the full range of financial supports available on the chamber’s website and newsletter.

Fingal Chamber also uses the services of Adare Human Resource Management to keep its members up to date on all relevant employment matters during a time that continues to be difficult for businesses.