ISME has called for measures to ensure the survival of as many small enterprises and SMEs as possible during the escalating coronavirus situation. 

It pointed out that while all businesses need cash to survive, SMEs - which typically have higher payroll costs and lower margins than large enterprises - are especially exposed to prolonged business slow-down. 

There are about 250,000 small enterprises in Ireland, employing just over five people each, and representing almost 70% of the active Irish workforce.

ISME's CEO Neil McDonnell said that nothing provokes worry and concern in the market quicker than the absence of liquidity. 

"The panic-buying we have seen in our supermarkets over the last few days will be replicated just as quickly in the availability of credit, and the discharge of debt, unless there is confidence about the availability of liquidity," Mr McDonnell cautioned.

The ISME boss that that it is important for the Government and the banking sector to appreciate the extent to which the SME sector will be squeezed in the coming weeks. 

He said the effects of the spread of the virus are already visible in the hospitality, travel wholesale and childcare sectors. 

"These are all populated by viable businesses, but they will become very vulnerable over the next number of weeks if liquidity solutions are not found for them," he said.

"In the same way the Taoiseach took a dramatic but necessary public health decision on March 12, ISME is now calling for some equally dramatic decisions on the provision of liquidity in the Irish economy," Mr McDonnell said.