The Restaurants Association of Ireland said today's news of new Covid-19 restrictions come as a disastrous, devastating and crushing blow to restaurant owners and their staff ahead of Christmas. 

It said the short notice given by the Government will mean thousands of euros of stock in each business will be lost in wastage. 

The association has called on the Government to provide a financial aid package for the restaurant sector, which it said has being "economically flattened" over the past nine months. 

"The package must be targeted, impactful and substantial in order to sustain 180,000 restaurant and hospitality workers and 20,000 businesses," Adrian Cummins, the chief executive of the association, said. 

Mr Cummins also called for the establishment of a Hospitality Taskforce with immediate effect with representatives of all the trade bodies in the sector and relevant Government Departments. 

"With less than 48 hours notice given for a shut down at the peak trading period of the year, serious questions needed to asked as to whether Government understands how the sector and food supply chain operates".

He also said that a closing time of 3pm gives the sector no opportunity to facilitate sittings. 

"With the 105 minute time limit in place, if an early closing on 24th December is needed a closing time of 5pm makes more sense," he added.

Meanwhile, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) has said it is extremely concerned about the financial impact of today's decision by the Government to bring forward the reintroduction of Covid restrictions.

It said the hotels sector will now be in "effective lockdown" from the 27 December, over a week earlier than expected.

Describing the impact on the sector as a "financial body blow", Tim Fenn, the chief executive of the Irish Hotels Federation, said businesses throughout the sector now face enormous additional financial losses at a time of continued economic uncertainty.

"The implications of ongoing restrictions are nothing short of devastating for our sector.

"Government supports to date have fallen short and not gone far enough in recognising the full extent of the economic impact on our sector," he said.

Mr Fenn said that traditionally, the Christmas trading period is vital for sustaining hotels during the first few months of the following year.

"Now, that revenue too is gone with today's announcement," he added.

"Our sector has made phenomenal sacrifices to ensure public health is the number one priority, and we will continue to play an essential part in keeping the country safe."

He said this must go hand in hand with sufficient economic supports for hotels and guesthouses, including a substantial and simplified Emergency Grant support package based on drop in business turnover.

"A failure to support the industry now will have ramifications for the future of Ireland’s tourism offering and for the economy that could take decades to remedy.

"The Government must now come forward with a coherent, sector-specific programme of supports and measures to secure the long-term financial sustainability of hotels and guesthouses throughout the country," said Mr Fenn.