On 12 March, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the first of what was to be a number of strict measures to be introduced in Ireland to combat the spread of COVID-19. On 24 March, he made another such address to the nation detailing more stringent restrictions than were already in place. He also announced that these measures will be extended until 19 April.
School and children’s facilities as well as non-essential businesses and facilities have been asked to close. Cafés and restaurants should be limited to take away service only. All essential services such as supermarkets and pharmacies are to implement social distancing measures of two metres between customers.
Many of us have adjusted our routines since closures began. Some have been able to begin or elaborate on their ability to work from home. Many people who do not have this luxury have changed their working habits and been given extra protective gear to help them in these times. Gyms and sports professionals are taking to Instagram to do live workouts in order to satiate their usual clientele.
Small local businesses in Ireland are suffering amid these new restrictions. Many of them are afraid they will never be able to recover, despite financial aid the government has promised.
Orlaith Keane owns the Homeplace Café in Headford, Co. Galway. Daughter to Matt and niece to Dolores and Seán, Orlaith comes from the prominent musical Keane family of Caherlistrane in County Galway. She set up her café in Headford last September and has recently had to close her premises to the public.
Michael Melia is an Athenry resident and former owner of the Fields of Athenry Gift shop, which he set up with his wife nearly 44 years ago. He works in the shop alongside his daughter, Melinda Treacy, who now owns and runs it. Originally a bar and now a gift shop and a café, Michael says that he sees a definite difference in business. He is also worried for the people of Athenry since the outbreak of COVID-19 and can see a shift in mentality since the restrictions and social distancing measures were introduced in March.
Both Orlaith Keane and Michael Melia are worried for their businesses, especially if closures remain in place for an extended period of time. They spoke to me this week about their concerns and how they are adapting to their new circumstances.
Let us know in the comments section what you’re doing to help local businesses in these trying times!