05 Oct 2022

Offaly Covid vaccination centre opening 'must be prioritised' stresses Tullamore Chamber

AN earlier opening date for the Offaly Covid vaccination centre must be prioritised due to the high incident rate in the county, Tullamore District and Commerce have stressed.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Chamber welcomed the opening of the “Tullamore walk-in test centre as a very positive development.”

“Our understanding from public health is there is no one particular Covid-19 transmission source; workplace, community, schools etc. The corollary being Covid is everywhere at this time. Large-scale testing will enable outbreaks to be isolated and extinguished. In our previous lockdowns, high-volume testing was called for but not provided. Industry-specific weekly testing has allowed the meat processing sector to continue in an orderly fashion,” said Chamber President Roger Guiney.

The Chamber chief said the next step in the battle against Covid is to prioritise the opening of the county vaccination centre at the Tullamore Court Hotel.

He said: “If the solution is ‘to go where the fish are swimming’, then the next obvious step is to prioritise the county vaccination centre for much earlier opening while virus incidence rates here are highest in Ireland and around three times higher than our neighbours. Seeing the impact vaccination has had on healthcare worker infections, this would ensure we are ready for a Level 5 exit in-line with the rest of country.”

Mr Guiney also stressed “Offaly must not be left behind” when restrictions are being eased.

“We are currently at the highest level of restrictions. What is still not publicly known is at what levels of infections or vaccinations restrictions will ease. Offaly must not be left behind. While there is nothing to say this is being considered, it must not even be contemplated. The consequences are too great. Under previous periods of restrictions, while industry worked away largely unimpeded, the negative publicity created a perception of Offaly being ‘closed’ and unable to supply customers, which was not the case,” he outlined

Mr Guiney added: “Different business sectors will return to work at different times. It is generally said that construction will emerge from Level 5 first and will show what we already know from manufacturing and essential retail; that workplaces are safe when controls are in place.

In terms of on-going business supports needed, there is not a ‘one size fits all’. Retail and wholesale for example, accounting for about 20% of employment in Offaly is largely cyclical and liquidity will be key to a successful restart. Hospitality will likely need on-going wage supports until patrons are confident and return in numbers.”

Mr Guiney said that even before Covid Offaly was economically disadvantaged and at the bottom of the State's per-capita income table.

He said the county had been entering a challenging period with the shut down of Bord na Mona before the virus struck.

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