Business group Ibec has warned that there may be public order issues around Christmas shopping this year.
The organisation, which represents the majority of Ireland’s private-sector businesses, is calling for shops to reopen on a phased basis from next week.
It is also calling for the hospitality and travel sectors to reopen as a priority.
In a letter to senior Government ministers and officials, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy warned that there is serious and urgent concern in the business community about the current phasing of coronavirus restrictions.
On Breakfast Business this morning, Mr McCoy said it may be unsafe to open everything at once on December 1st.
“In terms of congregation – and congregation is the problem with the virus –people will, if they are concertinaed into a shorter period of time, there will be public order issues around shopping for Christmas,” he said.
“The more days we have in advance of Christmas, the more social distancing can be facilitated and more people can get the things they need.
“Otherwise people will rush at the end and that will compound the problem.”
Mr McCoy said the reopening of hospitality is likely to take a little longer to come on stream – but warned that Government needs to set out a clear plan regarding what can open and when.
“We had this over the summer,” he said.
“Lots of businesses put in place the measures and now they are not even being given the opportunity in the hospitality sector to earn a livelihood in a systematic way and be able to plan for that.”
He also hit out at the mixed messages coming from Government on international travel.
“We agreed to do the international travel in terms of colour coding, putting the infrastructure in the airports in terms of testing and then we just get messages saying, ‘oh don’t come back to Ireland,’” he said.
“It has to be systematically done and the communication has to be systematic as well – rather than just knee-jerk reactions.”
Mr McCoy said the Ibec proposals would underpin the Government’s current strategy, which is to reduce virus figures ahead of a reopening over the Christmas period.
“The suppression strategy is the Government’s strategy,” he said. “They want to suppress and release. They want to release into the month of December.
“We are pointing out how to do that safely but we also need engagement. NPHET needs to advise on public health and the business community needs to advise on how to do it safely as they return to business.