Some of Ireland's building sites returned to life yesterday after large swathes of the industry shut down during the harsh lockdown period, although a survey by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that businesses across the country were hurting badly.
Listed housebuilder Glenveagh was one of those that reopened some of its sites yesterday. At Barnhall Meadows in Leixlip, 30 workers returned to the site while at Ballymore's Dublin Landings site, isolated workers in hard hats, masks and hi-viz vests resumed work.
Other smaller sites also got back to work, although numbers are still limited thanks to social distancing rules that make work on offices and apartments more difficult for an industry which was one of the hardest hit by the lockdowns.
"Two of every three responding enterprises in the construction sector had ceased trading either temporarily or permanently as of 3 May 2020," the CSO said in a survey published yesterday. More than 700 firms responded to the research in the week starting May 4.
According to the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), 75,000 workers already have done an online test to confirm their awareness of on-site virus protocols, a figure that is around half of those employed in the industry.
"We're used to managing risk. We're used to wearing PPE. And we're used to assessing the risk in front of us at any given time and working accordingly," said Conor O'Connell, director of the southern region for CIF.
The CSO said that overall a quarter of Irish businesses had stopped trading, at least on a temporary basis, as a result of the pandemic lockdowns. A third had laid off staff and a slightly larger percentage had cut working hours.
While there was some cheer for builders with the partial reopening, other sectors of the economy will remain closed for many months to come under the phased opening being planned by the Government.
The food and accommodation industry has been especially badly hit, with one in seven firms ceasing to trade either on a temporary or permanent basis, the CSO said.
However, some firms that had shuttered in the first round of the survey had restarted their businesses.
"Amongst enterprises who responded to both waves of the survey, one in six of those who had ceased trading temporarily by 19 April indicated that they had recommenced trading by 3 May," it noted.
Almost half of the responding companies said they were confident of having the financial resources to continue operating for longer than six months. This response was seen for 65.1pc of large enterprises and in 45.6pc of small and medium companies.
About 80pc were confident that they have the financial resources to continue operating for at least another month, the CSO said.
Even though the economy has started to reopen, it is set to experience its biggest ever contraction in a single year of more than 10pc, according to Government estimates. It fears there will be long-term scarring with around one in ten workers expected to be unemployed next year.
Evidence from other European countries that started to ease their lockdowns earlier than Ireland has shown that people are wary of travelling on public transport and of going to shopping outlets.