Coronavirus

The coronavirus death toll in the Republic ofIreland more than doubles to 19

Leo Varadkar has announced a mass coronavirus shutdown across the Republic. File picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
Cate McCurry, PA

The coronavirus death toll in the Republic of Ireland has more than doubled to 19 after ten more deaths were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Thursday.

Of the ten latest victims, three were female and seven were male. Nine were from the east and one in the south.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Republic cannot stop coronavirus but the nation can work together to “slow it in its tracks”.

Mr Varadkar made the comment as a major debate on emergency legislation to deal with the Covid-19 crisis takes place in the Dail.

The Omnibus Bill details measures that aim to prevent evictions and implement a rent freeze throughout the health crisis.

The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill will address resources within six departments, including housing and health.

The legislation before the Oireachtas aims to protect tenants and includes a €3.7 billion aid package that will see the government contribute to wage packets.

The emergency measures are part of a major effort by government to mitigate the social effects of Covid-19 and the economic consequences of the virus.

The Dail also agreed on Thursday to pause business at 8pm to applaud health workers following a request from the Health Service Executive (HSE).

A reduced number of TDs sat in the Dail throughout proceedings and followed the social-distancing advice by sitting two seats apart.

Mr Varadkar said the emergency legislation is a response to an “unprecedented emergency”.

Speaking in the Dail, the Taoiseach said: “Unfortunately we cannot stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back.

“Our national objective must be to flatten the curve.

“We can succeed if everyone takes sustained action. Nothing less will do.”

Mr Varadkar said the amount of time spent planning for Brexit means they are in a better position to deal with major changes.

He added: “The work spent thinking about supply lines, about the impact of a shock to the economy, the money we set aside through prudent management of our finances – all of this is now being deployed against a different kind of national threat.”

He added: “Today’s legislation, to last for the duration of the emergency, will freeze rents, prevent evictions and make it easier for healthcare professionals to re-register and return to work and also enable former members of the Defence Forces to rejoin at the ranks they left.

“The truth is, these are extraordinary times.”

On Wednesday, a further 235 cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland.

Two more patients who tested positive for Covid-19 died, bringing the state’s total to nine deaths.

In total, 1,564 people have been confirmed as having coronavirus in Ireland.

During Thursday’s debate, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the people of Ireland continue to face real fear and uncertainty.

Speaking in the Dail, he added: “To an extent never seen before, people are subject to major personal restrictions which limit their ability to mix with others, look after family members and go to work.

“The measures which we adopted last week and those which we are adopting today are not ones that we would even discuss in normal circumstances.

“But clearly, this unprecedented situation has justified, and will continue to justify, an unprecedented response.”

Mr Martin also said that Ireland needs a government “which can discuss and implement an urgent recovery plan”.

He called for an introduction of “some form of social partnership model”.

He added: “I believe we need a government which can discuss and implement an urgent recovery plan. In doing this, we should certainly look at the introduction of some form of social partnership model.

“This should involve key stakeholders so that there can be real engagement and a true societal response to what will be a plan for our national recovery post-Covid-19.”

TDs raised concerns about shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health staff.

It comes after Dr Colm Henry, Health Service Executive chief clinical officer, said they had been facing challenges securing PPE in a “very competitive global market”.

Concerns around safety on construction sites were also raised as some workers struggle to abide by social-distancing rules.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told the Dail that the chief executive of the HSE, Paul Reid, told him during a meeting that they did more in a week to move towards Slaintecare than they would normally do within a year.

Mr Ryan said the resources being pumped into healthcare was an opportunity to invest in the system “in every aspect”.

He added: “At a time of this radical and rapid change, it’s a chance for us to invest in a health system to bring it in the direction we want, and that will require investment.

“Similarly, if we have tens of thousands of workers and hundreds of thousands who will be unemployed, we should be looking to really ramping up our public housing programme straight away, as a stimulus to come out of unemployment that may come with this economic downturn.”

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Coronavirus