Banks have not yet seen a sharp rise in customers struggling to meet loan repayments following the tightening Covid-19 restrictions, but the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland says its members are ready to offer support to those that need it.

The BPFI said that, while there had been no "influx of requests for support" similar to what was experienced in March of last year, banks and non-bank lenders were monitoring the situation intensively.

It said lenders have committed "significant resources" to support customers affected by Covid-19 and the related restrictions imposed by Government.

It said customers that were unable to meet repayments for January could be provided short-term relief while a longer-term solution could be worked out.

?However it added that it was important that customers engaged with their lender as early as possible to ensure the best outcome could be found.

"Lenders are continually monitoring daily trends and resources are in place to handle further customer support requests, should we see an increase in the coming weeks," said BPFI CEO Brian Hayes. "I cannot stress enough the importance for customers to engage with their lender. 

"Thousands of customers impacted since the start of the pandemic have worked with their lender and the tailored solutions which have been agreed and put in place are working for customers impacted by the pandemic."

Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty called on banks, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe to reintroduce payment breaks for borrowers impacted by Covid-19.

During the first lockdown banks offered affected customers a three month freeze on loan repayments, which was later extended by another three months.