Tag Archives: Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe (above) visiting the Defence Forces Joint Task Force in McKee Barracks, Dublin, today

This afternoon.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gives journalists the latest on his re-registering as a medical practitioner in order to work one shift a week to help out during the coronavirus crisis.

Related: Taoiseach rejoins medical register to assist with Covid-19 crisis (RTÉ)

Rollingnews

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (top) at a press briefing in Government Buildings last night

Last night.

During a press briefing in Government Buildings.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he had “heard stories of people who had asked their employers to lay them off because they’d be better off” on the €350-per-week Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment than working 20 hours a week for €11 per hour.

Do the maths, yourself,” he told journalists.

This is the full exchange Mr Varadkar had with a journalist about the matter.

Journalist: “Just in relation to…I think we saw 280,000 people or so applying for the PUP and having it accepted. I’ve seen some reports of people who perhaps, have got this payment, who didn’t have a job beforehand.

“I’ve even saw reports of somebody in Australia who’s received this payment. Are you are worried about people who are receiving this payment who haven’t, who aren’t entitled to it?”

Leo Varadkar: “Well, certainly, I certainly would be worried if anyone would receive the payment who’s not entitled to it and that would go for any payment that the Government gives.

“A lot of our response was a response that was an emergency response that we wanted to make sure that what we did for people who lose their jobs, for people who are self-employed whose businesses close, for businesses that needed to keep on workers but who couldn’t afford to pay them. We wanted to make sure that whatever we did got money to companies and to people quickly.

“And also was easy to administer. So you’ll see, in contrast you’ll see, in other jurisdictions, in the UK for example, the money that self-employed are getting, they won’t get until June. Whereas self-employed people in Ireland are already in receipt of the payment if they need it.

“And not all of them but a lot of them. And again we want to make sure that companies were getting the money right away. And they are.

“But inevitably the perfect is the enemy of the good and what we did was good, I think, in terms of supporting people’s incomes and supporting business. It’s not perfect and there are going to be loads of anomalies.

“And I know one of the anomalies has arisen is that there are people who are working part-time, for example, who were earning less than €350 a week who lost their jobs and now, actually, might be slightly better off. And then there are other people who are getting the payment but are losing more, if you like.

“But it was always going to be the case that when we acted quickly, as we did, that anomalies would arise. And we’ll try and deal with them as we go along. But our main objective was to make sure that nobody was going to run out of cash.

“That people had a safely net for them. And in having a much generous safety net than is the case in other jurisdictions, again for example, north of the border, people are applying for Universal Credit and it’s about hundred pounds a week. Contrast that with €350 a week here. You know, we didn’t want to overcorrect the other way, where we’d be leaving people short. So there will be some people who’ll actually end up better off as a result.

“But they will be small in number and that was price worth paying to make sure that the vast majority of people had a decent proportion of their incomes protected.

“And, you know, I have heard stories of people who have asked their employers to lay them off because they’d be better off on the €350 payment than maybe working 20 hours a week for €11. You know, do the maths, yourself.

“And I would just say to anyone who is thinking of that, we are all in this together and nobody, in any walk of life, should seek to be better off, or seek to make profit out of this crisis.”

Anyone?

Watch back in full here

Previously: Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All on Broadsheet

Health Minister Simon Harris

This afternoon.

A reduced number of Dáil members are meeting to hear statements on health and social protection matters concerning the coronavirus.

It followed calls for the members not to sit.

Meanwhile…

Yikes.

Anyone?

Watch live here

Earlier: Meanwhile Not In The Dáil

This afternoon.

Let’s take a closer look…

Um.

Ah here

Zoom above via Philip O’Reilly

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Health Simon Harris at a press conference at Government Buildings this evening

This evening.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Health Simon Harris are holding a press conference at Government Buildings to speak about the new public private partnership with private healthcare providers in response to Covid-19.

During the press conference, Hugh O’Connell, of the Irish Independent, asked Mr Varadkar if he could indicate when Ireland might “start to return to normality”.

Mr Varadkar said he didn’t know.

The question follows Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, saying yesterday that normal life will not likely resume in the UK for at least six months.

In his response, Mr Varadkar said:

“To be honest with you, we don’t know for sure. You know, this is a new virus and you can only be so much of an expert on a virus that’s only been known to the world for three or four months and some of the estimations and assumptions we might have had two or three weeks ago are different now and they may be different again in two or three weeks again.

“What is going to happen this evening is Philip Nolan, who’s heading up our group on modelling, is going to speak at the press conference tonight with the chief medical officer [Tony Holohan] and the idea is that every week or so the model will be updated and that will be shared with the public because we want to be as transparent as possible.

“But in being transparent we need people to understand that by putting information out there, and we want to put all the information out there, it may turn out to be incorrect and you’ll just have to bear with us on that in many ways or it may change over time.

“Certainly what the UK is talking about and I think what a lot of people around the world are talking about now is that there will come a point after the epidemic is peaked and the number of new cases starts falling, when we will start to ease the restrictions and then we’ll have to see what happens so we won’t be in a situation whereby I suddenly go on TV and make an address to the nation and say everything is going back to the way it was on the 11th of March.

“That’s probably not what’s going to happen. What is likely to happen is that the number of new cases will continue to rise, we’ll reach a peak, hopefully that will be in a few weeks’ time and not in a few months’ time.

“The number of new cases will start to fall and will reach the point where we can start to ease some of the restrictions and then see what happens, whether the number of cases starts to rise again or not.”

Nucleocapsid?

Meanwhile…

Later, Jennifer Bray, of The Irish Times, asked Mr Harris about the shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) that Ireland has ordered from China.

Ms Bray asked if Ireland has any “guarantees” about the quality of the items, in light of the Netherlands recalling hundreds of thousands of masks that it received from China.

This morning, China’s Ambassador to Ireland He Xiangdong told RTÉ’s Rachael English that China would do its best.

Mr Harris said:

“In relation to the quality of the PPE coming into the country, Paul Reid [CEO of the HSE], the head of the HSE, has publicly said that any PPE purchased by the HSE needs to meet World Health Organisation standards and also will be checked on arrival.

“So it’s a job that the HSE needs to do, they’ve a duty of care to their staff and we obviously need to ensure that any PPE distributed throughout the health service meets the WHO standards and they certainly said that’s absolutely their intention and view in relation to the equipment they bought.”

Earlier: “I Think That We Will Try Our Best”

This evening.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (top), Health Minister Simon Harris and the Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan held a press conference about the Government’s latest response to the coronavirus, in which Mr Varadkar announced further restrictions on the public’s movements.

It follows the latest figures from the Department of Health confirming that three more people have died as a consequence of Covid-19, one of whom was a healthcare worker. This brings the total number of deaths to 22.

The figures also show 302 new cases have been confirmed, bringing the country’s total to 2,121.

During this address, Mr Varadkar said:

“I said there would be a calm before the storm and the aim of every single action that we’ve taken is to reduce the impact of that storm in our country, to slow the virus down, to push it back, to contain it.

“Throughout all of this, the Government has acted on the advice of the chief medical officer and national public health emergency team, an expert team of public health doctors, virologists and scientists.

“Today they informed the Government that the number of confirmed cases has now exceeded 2,100 and sadly the number of deaths now is 22 and there is a day-on-day increase in the number of admissions to intensive care units. In fact the number has doubled since Monday.

“Transmission in the community now accounts for more than half of all cases. And there continues to be an increasing number of clusters, many of which are in nursing homes and residential care settings.

“Earlier today the Government received further recommendations on the actions that we need to take to protect our people. These are in addition to all the measures that are already in place.

“So with effect from midnight tonight, for a two-week period, until Easter Sunday, the 12th, everybody must stay at home in all circumstances, except for the following situations.

To travel to and from work, for the purposes of work, only where the work is an essential health, social care or other essential service that cannot be done from home. A list of these will be provided.

To shop for food or household goods, or collect a meal. To attend medical appointments and collect medicines and other health products. For vital family reasons such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people.

To take brief, individual, physical exercise within two kilometres of your own home which may include children from your own household, as long as you adhere to two metre physical distancing.

For farming purposes, that is food production and the caring of animals. All public and private gatherings of any number of people outside a single household living unit are prohibited.

“The virus might be in your house already so please don’t spread it to anyone else’s.

“Sadly, this prohibition includes family visits that are not for vital reasons which I already mentioned.

“A further range of non-essential shops and services will be closed. The guidance given earlier this week in respect of essential retail outlets will be revised to reflect this.

Adult community education centres and local community centres will be shut. All non-essential surgery, health procedures and other other non-essential health services will be postponed. All visits to hospitals, residential healthcare settings, other residential settings and prisons are to cease with specific exceptions on compassionate grounds.

Shielding or cocooning will be introduced for all of those over 70 years of age and specified categories of people who are extremely vulnerable to Covid-19. Detailed guidance will be available.

Travel to our offshore islands will be limited to residents of those islands. Pharmacists will be permitted to dispense medicine outside of the current period of validity of limited prescription, in line with the pharmacist’s clinical judgment.

All public transport and passenger travel will be restricted only to essential workers and people providing essential services. Apart from the activities that I’ve listed there should be no travel outside of a two-kilometre radius of your home for any reason.

“These are radical actions aimed at saving as many people’s lives as possible in the days and weeks ahead. We’re not prisoners of fate, we can influence what’s going to happen to us next. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

Ah here.

Watch back in full here.

UPDATE:

Tonight, just before 10.45pm…

An Garda Síochána released the following statement:

An Garda Síochána has this evening started a major nationwide policing operation focused on supporting public compliance with public health measures over this weekend.

Following recent announcements by An Taoiseach of the necessity for people to undertake a range of public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19, there will be high visibility patrolling by Garda members across the country during the weekend.

The focus of this activity will be on encouraging people to adhere to public health measures as announced by An Taoiseach.

The policing operation runs from 7pm tonight until 7am on Monday morning (March 30) and will involve thousands of Gardaí on foot, bike and mobile patrols.

While An Garda Síochána will seek to encourage people to maintain the necessary public health measures, it will intervene where venues/ outlets are not in compliance or where groups of people are not adhering to recommended measures.

An Garda Síochána acknowledges that the vast majority of the public are being responsible and making great efforts to implementing public health measures including social distancing guidelines, this includes staying active as a family unit and availing of fresh air and exercise.

However, the presence of large crowds in any one area reduces the effective impact of social distancing.

An Garda Síochána asks people and families to continue to be responsible, not to attend popular locations for overly long periods and where the numbers of persons starts to increase at any location to leave such areas.

Announcing An Garda Síochána’s operation for this weekend Commissioner Drew Harris said, “An Garda Síochána’s priority is keeping people safe and that will continue this weekend. There will be a major policing plan across the country with high visibility of Garda members at key locations.

“It is vital that people adhere to the social distancing guidelines. This will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. The vast majority of people are complying with the guidelines and we want that to continue this weekend. By all of us working together, we can flatten the curve and keep our loved ones safe.”

Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security, John Twomey said, “These high visibility patrols are to provide re-assurance and social distancing advice to the public.

“Garda members will pro-actively engage positively with people. An Garda Síochána will police as it has always done with the consent of the people. It is in everybody’s interest that people comply with these measures.”

COVID-19 – An Garda Síochána Begins Major Policing Operation in support of public compliance of public health measures (An Garda Síochána)

This morning.

In the Dáil.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar begins the debate on the latest emergency legislation as a consequence of the coronavirus.

The Dáil sitting, involving a severely reduced number of TDs, is scheduled to sit for 12 hours.

The 40-page Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill can be read in full here.

Meanwhile…

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of a Covid-19 public information booklet at Government Buildings this morning

This afternoon.

Pat Leahy, in The Irish Times, reports:

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said there is unlikely to be 15,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ireland by the end of this month as he had previously warned.

However , Mr Varadkar warned against any complacency in the fight against the spread of the disease.

Mr Varadkar said in recent weeks that the number of cases could reach 15,000 by the end of March, but with 1,329 confirmed cases as of Tuesday night, this level is unlikely to be reached in the next week.

Speaking during briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Varadkar cautioned that while this accounted for confirmed cases, “there are many, many more cases out there that are not confirmed”.

Coronavirus: Varadkar revises downwards estimate of 15,000 cases by end of this month (Pat Leahy, The Irish Times)

Rollingnews

This afternoon.

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.

He said:

“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.”

Later

“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.