St Patrick's Day parades cancelled as HSE scales up and income and business supports are announced in bid to slow down spread of Covid-19

The main objective in the current phase is to limit and slow down the spread of the virus, to keep the number of affected people to a minimum and reduce peak pressure on the health service.

Leitrim Observer Reporter

Reporter:

Leitrim Observer Reporter

KILKENNY

Coronavirus / Covid-19: Events are being cancelled or postponed

Following a meeting of the special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 today, Monday, March 9, 2020, the Government has decided on the next phase of Ireland’s response to the global and national public health emergency arising from Covid-19.

The main objective in the current phase is to limit and slow down the spread of the virus, to keep the number of affected people to a minimum and reduce peak pressure on the health service.

A package of reforms has been agreed for sick pay, illness benefit and supplementary benefit and an initial package for business including €200 million in liquidity funding has also been agreed.

The HSE is also scaling up its actions to deal with a population impact over the coming months which could produce service demand beyond anything previously experienced. The estimated cost is in the region of €435 million in 2020.

St Patrick's Day

The Government has decided that St Patrick’s Day parades, including the Dublin parade, will not proceed this year. This is based on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). The situation in relation to other events and mass gatherings remains under review and any response will be guided by the NPHET which meets again tomorrow (Tuesday, March 10), along with the public health advice.

HSE scaling up actions

The HSE will undertake a series of actions at a cost of €435 million. These will include:
- trengthening public health capacity for contact tracing and response;
- Freeing up as much space as possible in hospitals, and in particular ensuring maximum capacity in intensive care and high-dependency units;
- Developing and scaling community-based responses, such as home testing, remote management of mild to moderately ill patients at home and the provision of dedicated Covid-19 services outside hospitals;
- Continuing to build and galvanise community awareness and preventative actions;
- Increasing capacity in the health service, through increased staffing, overtime and redeployment;
- The opening of additional acute and critical care capacity and the restriction of elective capacity;
- Increasing the capacity of the National Ambulance Service;
- Centralised procurement of additional essential equipment, such as Personal Protective Equipment, ventilation equipment, dialysis equipment, portable radiography equipment and additional fleet for community care;
- Greater use of technology and telephone support.

€2.4 billion for income support

The main elements  of the income supports agreed are:
- Waiving the requirement for six waiting days for sick pay in respect of medically certified cases of self-isolation in accordance with public health guidelines;
-  The removal of the means test requirement for Supplementary Welfare Allowance in respect of medically certified cases of self-isolation;
- To contain the transmission of Covid-19, the personal rate of Illness Benefit will be increased from €203 per week to €305 per week for a maximum period of two weeks of medically certified self-isolation, or for the duration of a person’s medically-certified absence from work due to Covid-19 diagnoses;
- Self-employed people will be entitled to receive either illness benefit or non-means tested supplementary welfare allowance.

 Economic Stimulus and Additional Actions for Business

The Health and Social Welfare actions agreed today represent a significant protection for workers and businesses and represent a total stimulus to the economy estimated at €3 billion.

Other actions to help reduce the wider economic impact include:
- The provision of a €200 million liquidity support fund for impacted firms;
- The existing systematic short-time working scheme is available for employees who may be placed on reduced working arrangements;
- A group will be established involving union and employer representatives, as well as relevant Government Departments and agencies to monitor labour market developments and to lead a joint national communications effort focused on employers and employees (including vulnerable workers, migrant workers and undocumented workers);
- Government Ministers will also meet the banks and other important economic actors to ensure there is a joined-up national effort to mitigate the adverse economic impact of the virus.