The world is at war with an invisible enemy – the unruly COVID-19. Nations are counting bodies and economies are shrinking. How best could any government contain this deteriorating situation?
COVID-19 knocked on the gates of Ireland on 29 February this year (2020). It spread rapidly, prompting the Irish government to call for the country’s ‘’lockdown’’ on the 12th of March. Although this would negatively impact the economy; it was a necessary ploy to save the lives of many.
Ireland’s COVID-19 statistics as of 17 June revealed 25,341 confirmed cases; 323 active cases; 23,308 recovered and 1,710 deaths
How is the COVID-19 spread?
Since the war on COVID-19 is not over yet, it’s imperative to understand how it’s spread. Researchers warned that COVID-19 can be spread through droplets that are ejected into the air when a person sneezes or coughs.
However, since the virus is heavier compared to other viruses, it will not travel more than 1 meter in the air. It will fall to the ground immediately. Health experts recommend people to maintain social distancing of 2 meters to minimize its spread.
What are the symptoms?
When exposed to the disease, victims will show mild flu-like symptoms that will go away after a few days. However, it was discovered that people of over 50 years of age and those with chronic ailments such as heart diseases, diabetes, cancer and lung problems may be more vulnerable to the disease.
- The mild symptoms of COVID-19
These are sore throat, muscle aches, sneezing, coughing, headache, loss of taste and smell.
- The acute symptoms of COVID-19
These are shortness of breath, diarrhea, chest pain, loss of speech and movement.
How to prevent its spreading
There is a need for people in communities to work together to combat this dreadful disease. To prevent its spread people should practice good hygiene. This involves washing hands and cleaning household surfaces with alcohol based detergents. When sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth or nose with a flexed elbow.
It’s also important to avoid unnecessary movements. When you really need to go out, maintain a social distance of 2 meters and avoid shaking hands or touching your face. Additionally, remember to always use a face mask to cover your mouth and nose.
Effects of COVID-19 on Ireland businesses
Businesses all over the globe are being affected by the pandemic. This has caused the global economy to shrink to unprecedented levels. In Ireland, over a thousand companies were affected by the novel COVID-19 pandemic. From the reports made by these companies;
63% mentioned sales challenges
There was an overall decrease in sales due to the restrictions imposed locally and internationally. Closed borders meant cessation of international trade. This greatly affected the country’s exports, and hence revenue streams of major companies.
A decrease in sales also happened locally in the state. The restrictions of movement around the country impeded the transportation of products to the markets. There were rigorous checkups by the authorities before goods could be cleared to reach their destination. It was also difficult to effectively conduct business with clients because of the social distancing measures.
28% are having supply chain problems
For companies to operate efficiently, they rely on other industries for spare parts, raw materials and other services. 28% of the companies in Ireland complained of an interrupted supply chain of goods. This is due to the closure of borders, restricted movement of transports and the shut down of factories.
The shutdown of one factory has a ripple effect on several other companies. Eventually, stocks depleted in wholesales and on the market.
50% struggle with staffing and retaining employees
Since business was no longer operating proficiently, companies could no longer recruit new employees nor sustain the workers they already have. Making losses everyday made it difficult to keep paying their wages and other expenses.
Reduced economic growth
When businesses are not running smoothly in a country, the livelihood of people becomes unbearable. The unemployment rate spiked to 5.4% in March. By April, it had gone further up by another 10%. The Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) believes that if the current COVID-19 situation is not resolved, the country’s GDP will sink by 11% this year (2020).
Ireland’s reaction to the pandemic
No country was better prepared to protect its economy from this dreadful disease. However, governments did their best to de-escalate the situation. A few weeks after the first COVID-19 case was recorded in Ireland, the country introduced measures to counter the economic damage it was causing.
The government approved funds to be injected into the economy; to help businesses endure the impacts of the pandemic. In March 2020, the Central Bank of Ireland released an economic stimulus fund of over €940 million.
This money helped companies to pay wages and hold on to their skilled workforce. It also solved problems to do with cash flow and investments. While big companies could take repayable bailouts of €800K, smaller companies were given access to €50K for business continuity.
The government also advised companies to have well-laid out financial plans. Grants of up to €5,000 were rolled out for this purpose. This helped companies to assess their financial statuses and come up with well-informed decisions on what to do to avoid business collapse.
Innovation led High Potential Start-Ups (HPSUs) were also provided access to €800K equity investments. This was to maintain their liquidity and to keep them afloat for a while.
The Irish Revenue Commissioners announced measures for SME businesses that were encountering cash flow and trading challenges. The measures included:
- The suspension of interest on delayed tax payments for the months of January/February 2020 and March/April 2020 VAT periods. The regulation was also applicable for the February, March and April 2020 PAYE periods.
- The suspension of the Revenue debt enforcement until further notice.
- The announcement for businesses to continue filing their tax returns even incapacitated to pay the taxes immediately.
Companies in Ireland faced major challenges due to the reaction of the government to COVID-19. However, although the imposed restrictions on social life and businesses affected the economy, it was necessary. Preserving the lives of citizens cannot be criticized.
Ireland introduced some measures to alleviate the impacts of the pandemic on businesses. Companies were provided with low-cost loans and grants. Additionally, tax liabilities were deferred and commercial rates were removed. All these changes were made to cushion companies from the hardships they were facing.
It might be safe to say that Ireland tried its level best to save both its businesses and the lives of people.