Republic of Ireland news

Coronavirus: Impact of easing restrictions in the Republic 'to become clear this week'

The Republic has begun its second week of a more relaxed lockdown
Cate McCurry, Press Association

The Minister for Health said it will become clear later this week whether the easing of restrictions has led to more cases of Covid-19 in the Republic.

The State is entering the second week in easing its lockdown laws which saw the reopening of a number of retail stores and some sporting activities.

Simon Harris said on Monday that he is feeling "optimistic", however he warned the public cannot "get sloppy" and urged people to continue following public health advice.

He also told RTE 2FM breakfast show that the advice around maintaining a two-metre physical distance is also under review.

READ MORE: Republic reports four further deaths and 57 new cases of Covid-19

Meanwhile, the Minister for Business Heather Humphreys said that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is going to be reviewed.

She said that employers are finding it difficult to recruit people back to work as some are earning more from the 350 euro weekly payment.

The PUP, which is due to expire on June 8, was introduced after thousands of workers lost their jobs at the outbreak of Covid-19.

"It's not fair and not sustainable that some people are earning more than before they were off work," Mrs Humphreys said.

"However, when the PUP was introduced it was an urgent response to an unprecedented emergency and the payments provided families with immediate assistance following the overnight loss of hundreds of thousands of income.

"As an emergency response it successfully allowed us prevent a public health emergency from turning into a social crisis."

The PUP is being extended beyond June, however the minister said that a number of changes will be made to deal with the "anomalies".

Meanwhile, a professor in Applied Pathogen Ecology, believes the current restrictions should remain in place for another four months.

Minister for Health Simon Harris

Professor Gerry Killeen, of University College Cork, said the Government's current roadmap will "guarantee" a second wave of Covid-19 cases.

The professor said that it could go on for years and become permanently part of the health landscape.

"Even with our five phases, there's no way to get to phase five without causing a second wave," he told RTE's Morning Ireland.

He said the current restrictions should go on for longer.

"The implications are huge. Unfortunately, the implications of stretching this out over four years or even bigger," he added.

"In relation to household economics in the vulnerable populations, we would use the term catastrophic expenditure - you go past the point of no return and that family never recovers from poverty.

"So we look at our Government in the same way - there's no doubt that a lot of businesses are going to go under.

"But the question is how long do we extend this over?

"How much damage does four years of repeated cycles of imposing restrictions and then lifting them again."

He also accused the Government of being "too slow" in its messages around Covid-19, including its decisions to isolate travellers and its advice around wearing face covers.

On Sunday, the coronavirus death toll in Ireland increased to 1,608 after a further four deaths were announced by the National Public Health Emergency Team.

Ireland recorded 57 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 24,639.

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