SIXTY-THOUSAND retail workers in Ireland are at risk of losing their job due to the implementation of Level Five restrictions.
Moving to Level Five means that only essential shops will remain open, such as food stores and pharmacies.
In a blow to the high street, Level Five restrictions will remain in place for six weeks as of midnight on Wednesday, with a review after four weeks.
Retail Excellence, the largest retail body in Ireland, said a closure of 'non-essential' shops would be "a massive blow" to a sector still recovering from lockdown earlier this year.
They say that 30,000 retail jobs have been lost already since the start of the pandemic, and warn that a further 60,000 are now at serious risk.
The run up to Christmas is the busiest and most profitable time of the year for most high street businesses, and after nearly eight months of hardship due to the Covid-19 crisis, many businesses see the festive period as their last chance to keep their necks above water.
Retail Excellence, who represent over 2,000 retail businesses, has expressed its "deep disappointment" with the Government's decision to close all non-essential retail, particularly given that they made an exception to the Level Five rule by keeping both schools and construction open.
"No other European country has locked down retail in the way this government has done with retailers in Ireland," they said.
"Retailers have been contacting us throughout the day extremely concerned and upset at closing their business for six weeks at the most important trading period of the year," said Duncan Graham, managing director of Retail Excellence.
"'Non-essential' retailers generate over 70% of annual turnover over this quarter and these further restrictions will inevitably push many more businesses into insolvency."
They have demanded of the Government that a 'crystal clear' roadmap for reopening is published, and that e-commerce/click & collect options should remain open and unrestricted to the public, as an alternative to high street shopping.
Retail Ireland, who represent around 3,000 stores across the country, urged the Government to provide the same thing.
"Covid is going to be with us for some time and customers need ready access to the products they require on a regular basis," said Retail Ireland director Arnold Dillon.
"The retail sector has radically transformed how it operates, with face masks, social distancing and other hygiene measures, to ensure a safe and highly controlled environment for customers and staff.
"With only a fraction of Covid clusters linked to retail settings, it is crucial that policymakers set out the risk assessment that has informed this decision and a strategy for unwinding any measures introduced," he added.