Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
582. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her attention had been drawn to the fact that the cut-off date for certain Fáilte Ireland pandemic support schemes will fall at the end of March 2021; her plans to top up and or fund new schemes through Fáilte Ireland; and if she will address tourism sectors such as destination management companies and tour operators that may not be eligible for the Covid restrictions support scheme and/or COVID business aid scheme through her Department and or Fáilte Ireland. [15377/21]
I understand that the Deputy is referring to the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme. The first phase closed for applications on 8th March and phase 2 will be launched shortly. The scheme is administered by Fáilte Ireland and I have referred the Deputy's question to Fáilte Ireland for further information on this scheme and direct reply to the Deputy. Please contact my private office if you have not received a reply within ten working days.
The Deputy will be aware that €10m was made available under the Ireland Based Inbound Agents Business Continuity Scheme, to assist Republic of Ireland based Inbound Tour Operators, Destination Management Companies and Professional Conference Organisers who package, sell and distribute Ireland’s tourism product overseas and who have suffered significant losses as a result of COVID-19. This scheme closed for applications on 8th December, 2020 with all payments from the scheme completed by 29th January 2021.
The Government is committed to supporting tourism through this difficult period and to working towards reopening and recovery. As set out in "The Path Ahead", the Government will consider more targeted measures to help reboot those sectors, such as tourism, which will face particular challenges during the recovery phase when the economy reopens.
583. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will examine matters raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) on the impact Covid-19 is having on that person's business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15478/21]
I am aware of the issues faced by the tourism and hospitality industry, including businesses such as the one to which the Deputy is referring specifically. I understand the difficulties that COVID-19-related restrictions pose for couples on their special day and the impact on businesses servicing weddings. Nonetheless COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease, which spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. The current public health advice is that it is too early to say how and when other restrictions might be eased given current uncertainties.
In line with COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery Plan 2021 – The Path Ahead, the Government agreed that the public health restrictions will be subject to ongoing review taking account of the evolving epidemiological situation and available evidence in relation to vaccine deployment, uptake and effectiveness. Government will meet in advance of 5th of April to review the level of restrictions. The focus of the assessment, based on the public health advice, will be on achieving the following before any significant easing of measures is contemplated:
1. Disease prevalence (case numbers/incidence) is brought to much lower levels that can be managed and controlled by public health and that the reproduction number (“R” number) is such that we can be confident that we can continue to suppress the disease, e.g. at or below 1.
2. Hospital and critical care occupancy are reduced to low levels to protect the health service and allow for the safe resumption of non-COVID-19 care.
3. Ongoing and steady progress on the vaccination programme such that the most vulnerable are protected through vaccination.
4. Emerging information on variants of concern.
Any easing of measures should be slow and gradual with sufficient time between phases to assess impact and to respond if the epidemiological situation were to deteriorate.
In terms of supporting businesses through the ongoing pandemic, the Government has introduced a number of horizontal measures and the July Stimulus and Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and fiscal measures to build the resilience of the economy and help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. Supports include the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), as well as ReStart grants and tax warehousing provisions.