Irish card spending fell just 7% for most of latest lockdown

By Padraic Halpin
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: People use an ATM machine outside a branch of the Allied Irish Bank in Dublin, Ireland

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish credit and debit card spending, including ATM withdrawals, was down 7% year-on-year for most of the recent period when the economy was under the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions, central bank data showed on Monday.

Ireland became one of first European countries to reimpose tough COVID-19 constraints six weeks ago when the government shut non-essential retail and limited pubs and restaurants to takeaway service under Level 5 restrictions.

But the continuation of manufacturing and construction -- and with many stores offering collection services while shuttered -- suggested far less damage had been done to the economy than during the wider lockdown in the spring. Those initial closures led to a year-on-year fall in spending of 27% in April.

The central bank said spending had increased in the days leading up the introduction of Level 5 restrictions on Oct. 22 and began to pick up again slightly in the week to Nov. 23, the period covered by one of the most up-to-date snapshots of Irish economic activity.

The restrictions have helped cut Ireland's incidence rate of COVID-19 to the lowest level in the European Union, facilitating the reopening of gyms, cinemas and all shops from Tuesday and restaurants, including pubs serving food, on Friday.

Ireland went into the COVID-19 crisis boasting the EU's fastest growing economy and the government's imposition of some of the bloc's toughest constraints has led to households saving money at a record rate.

Separate central bank data on Monday showed that households squirreled away another 1.7 billion euros in October, meaning deposits were up 12.6 billion euros or 11% year-on-year in the 214 billion euro economy, the highest annual increase on record.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Kevin Liffey)