Coronavirus: Government closes non-essential shops as seventh death confirmed

204 new cases in State as gatherings restricted to four people and measures extended until April 19th

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced a series of new measures - while also extending current restrictions until April 19th - in an attempt to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Video: RTÉ

 

One further death and 204 new confirmed cases pf Covid-19 have been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team at its daily briefing on Tuesday evening.

The deceased patient, a male in the east of the country, had an underlying health condition.

This brings to seven the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the Republic, and to 1,329 the number of confirmed cases.

It comes after the Government moved to increase the measures to tackle coronavirus.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said social gatherings should be restricted to no more than four people in the attempt to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a Government briefing in Dublin, he said restrictions already in place such as school closures have been extended until April 19th. Mr Varadkar said all non-essential retail should close, and that people should work from home unless absolutely essential.

He urged everyone to stay at home to slow the spread of Covid-19. “We believe we need to do more to flatten the curve. People should stay at home if at all possible – this is the best way to slow the virus.”

Two metre spacing due to Covid -19 (coronavirus) in St Stephens green, Dublin. Photograph:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Two metre spacing due to Covid -19 (coronavirus) in St Stephens green, Dublin. Photograph:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mr Varadkar said all cafes and restaurants should limit supply to takeaway only. Among other measures announced by Mr Varadkar are that all theatres, clubs, bingo halls, are to shut, and that all sporting events, even those behind closed doors, should be cancelled.

He said people should only go to the shops for essential supplies, for medical or dental appointments, to care for others or to take physical exercise;

He also said non-essential indoor visits to other people’s homes should be avoided. “No unnecessary travel should take place within the country or overseas.

Mr Varadkar said private hospitals “will act effectively as public hospitals” for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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He said: “Private hospitals have agreed to do this on a not-for-profit basis. Public and private patients will be treated equally.”

Single national hospital service

Minister for Health Simon Harris said patients with Covid-19 will be treated for free in a single national hospital service. Mr Harris said all private hospitals will be public or run by the State for the duration of the pandemic. He said: “There can be no public vs private here.”

Parents will not be asked to pay creche fees for up to three months under a government scheme that will see childcare worker wages topped up beyond the 70 per cent level announced for others.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs will reimburse childcare providers a further 30 per cent on top of the scheme announced earlier today, which will see the Government pay 70 per cent of a workers salary up to €410 per week.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressing media at a Covid-19 press briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photograph: Steve Humphreys/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressing media at a Covid-19 press briefing at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photograph: Steve Humphreys/PA Wire

The full list of essentialretail outlets is as follows:

- Retail and wholesale sale of food, beverages and newspapers , Retail sale of household consumer products necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences and businesses; Pharmacies/Chemists; Opticians/Optometrists; Retail selling medical and orthopaedic goods ; Fuel stations and heating fuel providers; Retailers involved in the repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycle repair and related facilities (e.g. tyre sales and repairs); Retail sale of essential items for the health and welfare of animals, including animal feed and medicines; Laundries and Drycleaners;Banks, Post Offices and Credit Unions; Retail sale of safety supply stores (for e.g. work clothes); Hardware stores, builders’ merchants and stores that provide hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance, sanitation and farm equipment, supplies and tools essential for gardening/farming/agriculture; Retail sale of office products and services for individuals working from home and for businesses; Retailers providing electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for home.

Support payments

Meanwhile, the Government’s Covid-19 emergency support payment for people who have lost their job as a result of the pandemic will increase from €203 to €350, it was confirmed on Tuesday.

Staff at the testing area for Covid-19 (coronavirus) at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Staff at the testing area for Covid-19 (coronavirus) at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Ministers also gave the go-ahead for a scheme which will see the Government pay 70 per cent of a workers’ salary - up to maximum of €410 per week - where the company agrees to continue paying the remainder of the salary. This is based on an average salary level of €38,000.

Mr Varadkar said any person in a household who is asked to self-isolate because a fellow householder is showing symptoms is entitled to illness benefit at a rate of €350 per week. “The Covid-19 illness benefit will also apply to household members who are also being asked to self-isolate but do not have the virus themselves.”

Main developments on Tuesday

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the country is “accosted by a pandemic that knows no border or boundaries”.

Speaking at a Government briefing in Dublin, Mr Donohoe said: “This public health crisis is like no other. This economic crisis is also very different to others. It requires a different response.

“This is because the very severe disruption has placed otherwise healthy businesses in jeopardy. Our citizens are under great strain.

“The payment to employers is to encourage them to retain employees on their pay roll during this period. It is available to employers who suffer either a minimum of 25 per cent decline in turnover and inability to pay normal wages and other circumstances.

“For the next 12 weeks such employers will be supported in the order of 70 per cent of an employee’s income.”

Mr Donohoe added: “The Government has acted and will act this week assuming the passage of required legislation. “In these days and months of adversity the care and protection of our citizens is our abiding concern.”

Schools closed

The measures are designed to try and offset the economic impact of the pandemic which has seen more than 140,000 people in the State lose their jobs.

Earlier it was confirmed that schools, colleges and crèches will remain closed until at least April 19th .

Meanwhile, “ten of thousands” of people are seeking to be tested each day, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan revealed, and priority will be given to healthcare workers and the sickest patients.

Dr Holohan said he was “very pleased” with the response of the public to the restrictive measures introduced 10 days ago, and said the aim was for “most of the people to comply with most of the measures most of the time”.

Northern Ireland deaths

Meanwhile the number of patients with coronavirus who have died in Northern Ireland has risen to five. The North’s Department of Health confirmed on Tuesday evening that two further patients had died

One was a patient in their eighties and who had underlying health conditions who died in hospital in Antrim. The DoH said an earlier death had also been confirmed as Covid-19 related. “My deepest sympathies are extended to the families affected,” the North’s health minister, Robin Swann, said.

“These deaths must never become mere statistics. Behind each of them is a family plunged into grief.” The total number of coronavirus cases in Northern Ireland now stands at 172.