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All non-essential outlets to close & more financial supports put in place

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New measures have been introduced in the Republic of Ireland to flatten the curve of further Covid-19 spread.

A cabinet meeting was held on Wednesday morning where action was agreed in three different areas to slow the spread of Coronavirus, to assist individuals who have or will lose jobs because of the pandemic and the introduction of emergency legislation. The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) issued the recommendations to Government.

Social gatherings are now to be limited to four people. There is no restriction on the amount of times a person can leave their home. All non-essential retail outlets are being told to close, with restaurants and cafes told to close unless they can offer a take-away option. Supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open.

All theatres, clubs, gyms/leisure centres, hairdressers, betting shops, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and similar outlets are to close. Playgrounds and holiday/caravan parks are shut while hotels are to limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. The Taoiseach confirmed all places of worship are to restrict numbers entering at any one time to ensure people observe social distancing. All organised social indoor or outdoor events of any size are not to take place.

Workers are to do so from home unless “your presence is essential”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlined. Factories and construction sites are not affected by the new measures.

Financial supports to workers affected by Covid-19 have been introduced. A temporary wage subsidy of 70% of take home pay up to a maximum weekly tax free amount of €410 per week to help affected companies keep paying their employees has been put in place, this is the equivalent of €500 per week before tax.

Workers who have lost their jobs due to the crisis will receive an enhanced emergency Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 per week (an increase from €203). The Covid-19 illness payment will also be increased to €350 per week. Self-Employed will be eligible for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 directly from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (rather than the Revenue scheme);

Such measures are expected to have a cost of €3.7 billion over 12 weeks according to Government officials.

All sporting events are now cancelled, this now includes those which were taking place behind close doors such as greyhound and horse racing. Schools will not return until April 20th at the earliest. “Everything possible” is being done to ensure the Leaving Certificate exams proceed, Varadkar confirmed.

Garda presence is to increase in Co Clare and across the country to ensure measures are being adhered to. “New powers afforded to Gardaí are to be used sparingly,” the Taoiseach said in reference to their ability to arrest individuals for not maintaining physical distance. Ex members of the Defence Forces can rejoin at the position in which they left.

Legislation has been introduced to prevent both the termination of residential tenancies and any rent increases for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis. The banks have also said they will support buy-to-let bank customers with tenants affected by COVID 19 with an opportunity to seek a payment break of up to three months – so they can in turn offer forbearance to their tenants.

Framework has been put in place that will see the State take control of private hospitals as long as the pandemic exists. This gives an additional 2000 beds, 9 labs and thousands of staff. Private hospitals have agreed to do this on a not for profit basis. “There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic,” Minister for Health, Simon Harris stated in a briefing on Tuesday evening.

Harris added, “As individuals we have a lot of power to stop the spread of the virus”. “We need everyone to be a hero, you can be a hero by taking the actions that will save lives”.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Holohan said the amount of contacts for each cases from twenty to five is an encouraging sign. He cautioned that 45% of cases diagnosed have been from community transmissions, 1 in 4 cases are healthcare workers. “These signs tell us we need to move rapidly, coherently, comprehensively and decisively to step up on recommendations”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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