'An absolute disgrace' - Kildare hotel boss issues hard-hitting statement on local lockdown

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The owner of The Osprey Hotel in Naas has said that local businesses struggling to get back to normal must not pay the price of Covid-19 outbreaks at some meat processing plants in Co Kildare.

CEO of the PREM Group Jim Murphy said that 8,800 of hospitality jobs in Co Kildare are now at risk due to a €90 million drop in revenue anticipated before year end. 

Mr Murphy called for urgent financial support for the sector.

The Osprey Hotel, which has 108 rooms as well a spa and wellness centre,  has been heavily hit by cancellations in staycations, weddings and corporate bookings.

The Government insisted that the decision to impose restrictions in Kildare, Laois and Offaly was made in response to the increased spread of the disease in these counties, and is based on very clear advice of public health officials.

 But a statement by Mr Murphy said: "The two-week shutdown in Kildare, Laois and Offaly can only be described as a huge shock to the management team, staff and owners (PREM Group) of The Osprey Hotel in Naas. 

"We have only just started to get back up on our feet and have worked tirelessly to ensure our guests enjoyed a healthy, safe and comfortable stay with us.

"We followed the government protocols surrounding Covid-19 prevention to the letter and adhered to strict cleaning schedules, we installed sneeze screens, took out tables in the restaurant and reconfigured our lobby area to allow for social distancing. 

"Since we reopened on the 29th of June, we have done everything right. Our staff underwent stringent training, we spent a huge amount of money on equipment and cleaning, we managed dining, spa and swim times very closely so that too many people would not gather at the same time and to allow for social distancing. 

"We also signed up to the Covid-19 Safety Charter, a Government-endorsed initiative which closely inspects tourism businesses to ensure the safety of guests, customers, and employees. Still we were shut down, and through no fault of our own."

Mr Murphy said that as a direct result of the recent lockdown, the hotel will be be 70% behind its forecasted Year on Year Revenue for 2020. 

He added: "Worse still, this shutdown will not only impact August, we are already receiving substantial cancellation volumes for September. We have already lost bedroom bookings and have had to cancel weddings, events and conferences.

"This shutdown could have a longer-term impact on customer sentiment around travelling to these three counties. Despite the fact that the source of the clusters has been identified, a blanket ban around travel has been imposed suggesting that Kildare, Laois and Offaly are unsafe destinations for corporate and leisure travel. Some of our large corporate accounts were ready to resume travel and have now put that on hold which is a real concern." 

The hotel boss said his 160 employees are extremely frustrated, and this shut down has resulted in a serious confidence blow for all of them and their families.

He continued: "It is an absolute disgrace. It has been well known for weeks that meat plants were hotbeds for the transmission of the virus. This should not have been a surprise to NPHET as similar plants across Europe have also been a cause of concern. Why did the Irish government not react sooner and take these meat plants to task?  Why were they not inspected regularly and monitored carefully by health authorities? 

"The government must face this impending disaster head on and not make matters worse by imposing shutdowns on businesses that had nothing to do with the recent outbreaks. 

"We need assistance and support; we should not be made pay for the sins of others. Lessons need to be learned from what happened in Kildare, Laois and Offaly so that local lockdowns can be avoided in other counties.

"We now need assurances that Government will take every step necessary to allow businesses to reopen on the 22nd August."

As part of the restrictions, people in Kildare, Laois and Offaly are being asked to:

  • Restrict their movements to travel within their own county except for work or other essential reasons
  • Limit their contacts to six visitors and no more than 3 households in their home.
  • Work from home where possible AND
  • For those people at a higher risk from Covid-19 using their own judgement, are advised to stay at home and limit visitors except for essential care services
  • The following restrictions will apply to certain services in the county
  • Cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries, bingo halls and other indoor recreational, sports, dance and cultural outlets should close
  • Restaurants and pubs serving food should close except for services to takeaway and deliveries and limited outdoor dining
    Nursing homes visits should be suspended
  • Government, working with employers and employee representatives have also moved to ramp up testing in affected sectors within the region.
  • Any business premises that requires to be closed on public health grounds will be closed and will not reopen until public health officials are satisfied that it no longer poses a threat.