TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar urged businesses to ‘hold firm’ and ‘save lives’ as evidence emerged of more firms preparing to break lockdown rules.

TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar urged businesses to hold firm and save lives as evidence emerged of more firms preparing to break lockdown rules.
Mr Varadkar reminded business owners that despite their frustrations, the regulations were there to reduce the burden on the health service.
The Governments Living With Covid plan this week offered little hope of any imminent relaxation of lockdown that has been in place since just after Christmas.
It has explicitly warned that nearly a year into this pandemic, Covid-19 fatigue is becoming evident and it is understandable.
But there have been a number of high-profile cases of businesses prepared to rebel against the restrictions in recent days.
Gardai arrested seven people yesterday following the alleged reopening of a salon in Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
A woman in her 40s was among those arrested. She was charged for breaches of the Health Act and. A man in his 50s was also charged.
But in a separate development, there are increasing concerns that the far-right is insidiously working to encourage business owners to defy the regulations and open up on March 1.
The Irish Independent understands letter drops and emails have been sent to businesses in the town Tralee and in other towns, from a subversive group, urging them to open up on March 1.
An email, from an anonymous email account Reopening Tralee, has been seen by the Irish Independent.
Gardaí confirmed they are aware of correspondence circulating among local businesses in Tralee, Co Kerry and officers are making enquiries on the matter.
Last night Mr Varadkar, who is Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, told the Irish Independent that businesses must hold firm for this last stretch.
I know how difficult the past year has been for everyone but as Enterprise Minister. I am of course particularly aware of the impact on business owners and their staff, he said.
Government has put in place a package to help businesses-wage subsidies, direct grants, the commercial rates waiver and VAT reduction, through what I recognise is an exceptionally difficult time. We will continue to look at what more we can do over the months ahead.
Meanwhile the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) said any business flouting Level 5 regulations must be shut down immediately.
Were calling on all our members and the restaurant sector as a whole, to abide by public health guidelines in the best interests of public health safety and to get our economy reopened as quickly as possible, Adrian Cummins, CEO of the RAI, said.
Any business flouting the rules and guidelines should be closed with immediate effect because any breaches of public health puts the lives of the public at risk and the future livelihoods of businesses, especially in the hospitality sector.
A spokesman for the Licensed Vintners Association said: We absolutely understand the pressures small businesses and the people dependent on them are under. These are very difficult times for the people in our sector.
“However, our position is very clear: all businesses must follow the public health guidelines.
A number of pubs are still serving takeaway pints to customers despite concerns regarding crowds gathering outside. However, the sales are not illegal. The LVA would not be drawn on the matter.
Neil McDonnell, chief executive of ISME said: While we cannot condone the actions of any individual businesses breaking the Covid-19 guidelines, we understand the immense personal, financial and mental stress many business owners are under having been forced to close for so long.
A Garda spokesman said: An Garda Síochána continue to liaise with local business in support of the current public health regulations.
Where gardaí find potential breaches of the public health regulations which are not declared to be Fixed Penalty Provisions, a file will be prepared for the DPP.
An Garda Síochána will adopt the approach of the Four Es which will see gardaí engage, explain, encourage, and as a last resort, enforce.
Any breaches of the Health Act 1974, such as opening a business during Level 5, can lead to a 1,000 fine or imprisonment for a month, or both.
Irish Independent