— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 24, 2020
At Government Buildings.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar held a press briefing to give an update on the Government’s response to Covid-19.
In his briefing he said all the restrictions he announced while in Washington DC two weeks ago have been extended until Sunday, April 19.
He also said people should only leave their homes for essential reasons such as going to work or going to shops for food supplies. He said people should not make non-essential visits to other homes and no more than four people should gather in an outdoor social setting – unless the people are from the same household.
“Good afternoon, everyone.
“This morning the Cabinet met to decide on the next steps that the Government will take to respond to the coronavirus emergency. These are unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency.
“We’ve agreed actions in three areas. First new measures to slow the spread of the virus as recommended by the CMO [chief medical officer] and the National Public Health Emergency Team, an expert team of public health doctors, virologists and scientists.
“Second, new measures to assist those who have lost or will lose their jobs as a consequence of the emergency and the scheme to ensure that many others do not and remain on the pay roll, rather than being laid off.
“And third, new emergency legislation that we’re asking the Dáil and Seanad to enact by the end of the week. Before I go through them in detail, I want to once again thank all of you for contributing to this great national effort.
“Thank you to our health service staff and our civil servants as well, our local authorities, are volunteers and NGOs, our Defence Forces, our gardai, our retailers, farmers and transport workers, carers and care workers, postal workers and those working in industry like pharma, food production and food service and medical devices.
“And thanks to everyone who’s helping out and helping others in a million different ways. Thank you all in religious life, our journalists and broadcasters, everyone doing their best to raise the spirits of our country.
“You’re rising to this challenge and the nation is grateful.”
“I’m asking you stay at home if at all possible. This is the best way to slow the virus, ensure our hospitals are not overwhelmed and buy us time that we need to build more capacity testing, contact tracing, beds and ventilators.
“So you should only leave home to go to work, if you can’t work from home and your attendance is essential. You should only go to the shops for essential supplies, out for medical and dental appointments or to care for others or take physical exercise.
“Non-essential indoor visits to other people’s homes should be avoided and social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be of no more than four people unless you’re all from the same household.
“We’re in this for the long haul and this could go on for weeks, perhaps even months so we need to maintain our humanity as well. And it is OK to see our families and loved ones, because we have to look after our mental health as well as our physical health, but we have to maintain physical distance.
“Do it in small groups only and much less frequently than we would in the past. No unnecessary travel should take place within the country or overseas now or over the Easter break.
“In order to assist all of this the restrictions I announced in Washington DC are being extended until Sunday, the 19th of April and the following new actions are being taken, effective from midnight tonight.
“All theatres, clubs, gyms, leisure centres, hairdressers, betting offices, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets are to shut. All hotels, to limit occupancy to essential, non-social and non-tourist reasons. All non-essential retail outlets are to close to members of the public and all other retail outlets are to implement physical distancing.
“A list of essential retail outlets and stores is being provided.
“All cafés and restaurants should limit supply to takeaways and deliveries only. All sporting events are cancelled including those held behind closed doors. All playgrounds and holiday caravan parks will close.
“All places of worship are to restrict numbers entering at any one time to ensure adequate physical distancing. All organised social indoor and outdoor events of any size are not to take place.
“The gardai will increase interventions where venues are not in compliance with or where groups of people are not adhering to recommended social distancing. All household contacts of a suspect case, that is someone waiting on a test or a test result should restrict their movements until the test is reported as negative or 14 days after the onset of symptoms, whichever is the shorter.
“As I’ve mentioned earlier, individuals should work from home unless attendance at the workplace is absolutely essential. And social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be of no more than four people unless all are from the same household.
“All non-essential indoor visits to other person’s homes should be avoided. All crowded places, including public amenities, should be avoided as well. And all scheduled cruise ship travel to Ireland will cease.
“Any setting that should close has been specifically identified today and the requirement that workers work from home, unless attendance is absolutely essential, is not to be read as meaning the factories or constructions sites have to be shut.
“The authorities are available to work with employers and unions on how to make physical distancing effective where that’s possible.
“There’s going to be an increase of park rangers and gardai in parks and public places to ensure that physical distancing is being observed. In Ireland, since Independence, we’ve always had policing by consent, rather than by coercion and I don’t intend for that to change now. That’s not our way.
“The new powers afforded to the gardai will be used sparingly and only where necessary. Let’s all play our part to ensure they’re not used at all.
“I believe a liberal democracy can do this without the need for authoritarian and draconian actions.”
“The impact of Covid-19 on our economy and employment has been sudden and will be enormous. I believe we need to maintain social solidarity, unity and a sense of community in this time of trial.
“In recognition of the fact that so many fellow citizens have lost their jobs so suddenly, we’re raising the Covid Unemployment Payment to €350 a week, that’s approximately 75 per cent of average earnings in the sectors most affected and compares favourably with what’s being done in other jurisdictions. The first payments will be made on Friday.
“The Covid Illness Benefit, for people who are self-isolating, will also increase to €350 per week and that can be topped up by employers.
“In order to encourage employers and companies badly affected by the emergency, to keep staff on the payroll, a wage subsidy scheme will be introduced, to co-fund 70% of the cost of salaries up to a maximum of €38,000 a year.
“So for a salary of €38,000 the subsidy would equate to €410 a week in take-home pay. The cost of all of this will be great, many billions of euros in the coming months. But we can bear it and we will be able to pay it back as a nation. We do so willingly because it’s the right thing to do. And because we owe it to our fellow citizens.
“I strongly believe that maintaining a link between employees and employers and companies will make it easier for us to bounce back when this is all over. We’ll keep our economic infrastructure intact and will give business the best chance possible of making it through.
“The self-employed will also be covered and I know the sacrifices that many of our self-employed have made, to build up their businesses and practices and I know how worried they are at the moment, how vulnerable they feel and Government will do everything we can to help sustain you and bring you through this emergency as well.
“Ministers [Paschal] Donohoe, [Heather] Humphreys, and [Regina] Doherty will set out in more detail how these measures will apply.
“Finally, Cabinet this morning approved the emergency measures in the Public Interest Covid Bill. This legislation, for the duration of the emergency, will freeze rents, prevent evictions, make it easier for healthcare professionals, to re-register and return to work and enable former members of our Defence Forces to rejoin at the rank at which they left.
“We need you to serve your country again and to strengthen our nation at this difficult time.
“We also approved a framework agreement with the private hospitals. They will operate effectively as public hospitals under Section 38 of the Health Act for the duration of the emergency. Thus adding over 2,000 beds, nine laboratories, critical care capacity and thousands of staff to our health service. Public and private patients will be treated equally and private hospitals have agreed to do this on a not-for-profit basis and I really want to thank them for their co-operation in this regard.”
More to follow.