Follow the latest coronavirus news in Ireland and across the world on the Independent.ie live blog.
VARIOUS EU aid packages worth a total of €2trn can play a vital role in helping Ireland rebuild the economy after coronavirus and get people back to work, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said.
Speaking after a video conference of EU finance ministers, Mr Donohoe welcomed the latest joint proposal by France and Germany for a total €500bn coronavirus rescue fund giving to grants member states. The money would be raised by breaking a long-standing taboo about the EU borrowing heavily on international money markets and repaying it out of Brussels coffers.
The Finance Minister said discussions were continuing on how this initiative - proposed by German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French President, Emmanuel Macron - would work in practice.
Brussels diplomats said the “frugal four” – Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark – remained opposed to the EU shouldering member states’ debts and also against expanding the overall scale of the EU budget.
The HSE has suspended the practice of informing employers of coronavirus test results before the employees who were tested.
The move comes after complaints were received by the Data Protection Commission (DPC), which subsequently raised concern about the incidences.
Earlier on Tuesday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said informing employers before their staff was a “breach of confidentiality”.
It is understood the incidences relate to widespread screening of large workforces, including meat plants, with public health officials alerting employers in the first instance in an effort to trigger prompt infection control steps.
The annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage on Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo has become the latest event cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision to abandon this years event, on Sunday July 26, comes after weeks of speculations.
In a statement, the Reek Sunday Organising Forum said concern about visitor numbers and adherence to public health advice were the main deciding factors behind the decision to cancel.
Organisers admitted it would be logistically impossible to safely oversee the pilgrimage which attracts around 3,000 climbers every year.
The Department of health has been notified of 16 further deaths linked to Covid-19 and 51 new confirmed cases.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said the Government will make a decision soon on how long the emergency pandemic unemployment payment will continue.
The 350 euro weekly payment was first introduced in March and is due to expire in June.
Asked about plans to extend the payment beyond June, Mr Donohoe said he knew the money was important for families and the Government was looking at the period and what amounts would be paid.
Speaking at Government buildings on Tuesday, he said: “We know these payments are important and they will continue for a period of time but we just have to decide over what period and at what level.
“We are only a few days into the re-opening of the economy and we just need some information to become available to us as to how the re-opening of the economy affects people on the wage subsidy scheme and the number of people availing of the PUP.
“We hope to have more data available to make a decision about those two issues soon and we will then make an announcement regarding the value of these payments and what is going to happen them.”
THE HSE's plans for coronavirus testing and contact tracing is expected to cost hundreds of millions of euro, a Dáil probe of the response to the crisis has been told.
The chairman of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, Michael McNamara, asked how much testing has cost so far and into the future.
Earlier TDs were told the health service now has the capacity to do 100,000 tests per week.
HSE boss Paul Reid said that the costs so far have been "roughly €35m between testing and tracing".
He predicted the costs into the future will be into the hundreds of millions of euro "based on the volume we’ll be testing in the coming year".
Mr Reid said the HSE is "still in dialogue" with the Department of Public Expenditure on the matter.
Mr McNamara asked for a breakdown on how much has been spent with individual labs.
Mr Reid did not have such figures to hand but gave an undertaking that this would be provided to the committee in writing.
A total of 70 incidents of spitting and coughing against members of An Garda Síochána have been recorded during the past month.
Figures released by gardai today revealed that members had to use anti-spit guards 57 times from April 8 until May 16 2020.
Commissioner Harris said: "Regrettably, these reprehensible spitting and coughing attacks on our personnel continue. These are a significant health and safety risk to our members in the current environment. We must protect them from such attacks."
Gardai reported that up to last Saturday they have invoked regulations 241 times out of the hundreds of thousands of interactions with the public.
These include both arrests and incidents without arrest where name and address details were taken.
Of the 241 incidents, two were as a result of an instruction from a relevant medical professional.
Gardai say arrest remains a last resort.
There have been 1,621 incidents where other offences were disclosed in the course of Covid-19 operations.
These range from incidents such as drink driving or disqualified drivers detected at checkpoints, to drugs and weapons seizures, to public order offences.
The Garda National Vetting Bureau (GNVB) has processed 24,335 vetting applications for Covid-related roles from March 12 to May 16 this year.
This includes applications across medical and healthcare roles, and voluntary groups.
GNVB is up-to-date with all vetting applications.
The current turnaround time for vetting applications is one day.
IRISH health chiefs won't be recommending the use of a drug that US President Donald Trump says he is taking to stave off coronavirus.
Mr Trump said he is taking hydroxychloroquine in a bid to avoid the disease.
The drug is used for malaria and lupus and experts have warned it has cardiac side-effects.
"I'm taking it for about a week and a half now and I'm still here, I'm still here," Mr Trump said.
Waterford Independent TD Matt Shanahan asked HSE bosses attending a Dáil committee if the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) or other medics here are looking at the use of the drug to prevent the disease.
The HSE's chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said authorities here are not recommending its use.
He said: "This is a drug that's used for other conditions.
"There’s been some small studies done which to date don't show any direct benefit.
"The current advice from us in this country from the expert advisory group – in line with other countries - is that more research is needed before we demonstrate this is of any benefit either in prevention or treatment of Covid-19."
Mr Henry warned: "It is a drug that is not without side effects – particularly cardiac side effects and as such we would not be recommending it for prevention of Covid-19."
Airline passengers coming from the UK who want to dodge 14-day quarantine rules could travel via Northern Ireland to the Republic, posing a public health risk, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned.
In a strongly worded letter to Health Minister Simon Harris on May 12 he said there is a risk of “imported cases associated with non-essential travel from and through Great Britain to Ireland via Northern Ireland” if different arrangements were to apply to such overseas travel.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) highlighted this risk and recommended that measures be taken to address the potential threat.
The previous week Dr Holohan also wrote to the Minister saying he was worried about Irish people taking summer holidays abroad and he called for a mandatory quarantine of 14 days after flying here.
It should apply to all people who return to Ireland from overseas with limited exceptions such as supply chain workers and those travelling to Northern Ireland.
Dr Tony Holohan has said that Ireland's response to Covid-19 cannot be compared with other countries where there are individual contributing factors.
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane put it to him that days after the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) advised that the blanket restrictions be lifted a visiting ban for nursing homes was imposed.
Mr Holohan said that on March 12 it was recommended that visits to nursing homes cease as part of a series of different pieces of advice including school closures.
"It was a change in our assessment of the disease on the 11th of March that led us to that point.
"Up to that point we didn't think we shouldn't introduce such arrangements because we understand that these are restrictions on people visiting their loved ones in places where they live."
Mr Holohan added: "I should point out to you that nevertheless, in terms of cross-country comparisons - and we've done this - the length of time between a country reporting its first case and then implementing visitor restrictions in the way that we did on that occasion – we were the quickest country in the world."
Under further questioning from Mr Cullinane Mr Holohan said there are more than 200 clusters of coronavirus cases in long-term residential settings and the Sinn Féin TD said: "I think we can all accept that that's very, very high."
Mr Holohan insisted: "It doesn't relate to visitor restrictions.
"Because we know that the point at which visitor restrictions were recommended by us which is on the 12th of March - we had had no reported clusters at that moment in time."
He said that New Zealand, Australia, Canada and "a range of countries across Europe" all took a "substantially longer time" to implement visitor restrictions.
He said it was done here before advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
"We were very responsive to the disease," he said.
Dr Tony Holohan has defended the timing of when visitor restrictions were placed on nursing homes as he was grilled on the decision in the Dáil.
Nursing homes have been among the worst-hit places in the coronavirus crisis with many vulnerable residents falling ill and passing away.
Mr Holohan insisted that no country put restrictions in place more quickly than Ireland and denied that outbreaks in homes related to visitors.
He came under pressure on the issue at the Dáil's Special Committee on Covid-19 Response.
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane put it to him that Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) - which represents private operators - restricted visitors in early March.
He said that on March 10, Mr Holohan and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) advised that the blanket restrictions be lifted and that was the advice given to nursing homes.
Mr Holohan disputed this. He said the advice given on that day was more broad and didn't relate only to nursing homes but "a range of different actions that are happening over the course of that week."
He said there had been "substantial concern" at NPHET "that there was a lot of unilateral action taking place" with organisations taking their own decisions about what public health actions they needed to take.
He said this was not informed by NPHET advice and "our clear concern was to try and ensure that we had all of the country, all of the organisations, operating in step with our advice."
He said that he has been quoted as saying there should not be restrictions on but that's not correct.
"If you check our press release in relation to that time we said that visitor restrictions in respect of nursing homes are not appropriate at this moment in time - which is a totally different thing to what has been interpreted by many people," he added.
SENIOR health officials have been unable to provide an assurance that all nursing homes are fully compliant with infection control regulations.
Nursing homes have been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic and older people are among the groups who are most vulnerable to the disease.
At the Covid Response Committee Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd raised the issue of coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes.
He said that just 123 of 581 homes around the country were fully compliant with Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) regulations according to the most recent data.
Mr O'Dowd said that in 2018 37 homes out of 215 inspected were non-compliant in infection control which he described as a "very basic protection".
He asked the senior health officials for an "absolute categoric assurance" that all nursing homes both public and private are now fully compliant with infection control procedures.
Department of Health boss Jim Breslin did not confirm that this was the case in his answer.
Mr Breslin said infections standards are in place for nursing homes and it's part of the responsibilities of those who run them.
He said Hiqa plays an important role in relation to nursing homes and issue guidance to providers about their responsibilities.
Mr Breslin said coronavirus is "much more infectious" than the typical flu outbreaks and "much more severe in its impact".
He said that it's hard to keep flu out of nursing homes each year. He said the response to Covid-19 in nursing homes remains an "absolute focus" of the public health effort,
And he said nursing home management are "very clear what their responsibilities are".
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary believes there will be "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities for growth in the next couple of years as the aftermath of the coronavirus leaves behind a radically changed aviation industry.
He also said the carrier's nascent relationship with Airbus is close to collapse and that Ryanair's Austrian subsidiary Lauda will probably migrate to a Boeing fleet.
He was speaking as Ryanair released full-year results that showed it made a profit of just over €1bn in the 12 months to the end of March.
"I think there is going to be significant opportunities into the summer of 2021 for Ryanair to grow strongly," said Mr O'Leary. "In fact, if anything, I would try to accelerate our growth into 2021 because there's going to be opportunities there with airports. There's certainly going to be a huge surplus of available pilots and cabin crew all over Europe."
The Northern Ireland Executive is set to revisit whether people should be able to meet immediate family indoors.
First Minister Arlene Foster said ministers are “constantly reviewing” medical evidence.
A series of lockdown relaxations were announced in the region on Monday, which included groups of up to six people who do not share a household being allowed to meet outdoors.
Garden centres and recycling centres re-opened their doors and fishing restarted, while churches and places of worship are to open for private prayer and golf is set to restart on Wednesday.
Drive-in church services and entertainment will also be permitted.
Celebrities including Gordon Ramsay and David Walliams encourage people to reach out to others as part of a video call to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
The video forms part of ITV's Britain Get Talking campaign.
Last month the 2019 drawn All-Ireland final referee David Gough brought some practical thinking to some of the challenges involved in a return to play, if it is to happen this year, in Gaelic games.
While the focus is rightly on the issue of contact in Gaelic football, hurling, ladies football and camogie, some of the other small detail that you could so easily forget about was brought to light in an interview he conducted with 'Game On' on 2FM.
How, for instance, would four umpires be able to pack into a referee's car and take off to a club ground, not to mention a county ground somewhere down the country, without observing some form of distancing, even if the two-metre Government guideline had been relaxed by then. It might not, he suggested, be the most prudent way to start off refereeing again.
Mexico issued guidelines on Monday for restarting operations in the automotive, mining and construction sectors, pushing ahead with reopening the economy despite a growing national toll from the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about unsafe work sites.
With Mexico's coronavirus death toll having surged past 5,300, and with 51,633 known cases, officials are wrestling with how to restart key industries without triggering a greater spread of the highly contagious respiratory virus.
The moves to loosen restrictions follow growing pressure from the United States to reopen factories that are vital to supply chains of US-based businesses, especially in the vast automotive sector.
Mexico's reopening plans have drawn criticism from some politicians worried that the still-rising pandemic tide in Latin America makes it unsafe to send more people to work.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has given an outline of the spread of coronavirus here and across the globe.
"Since Covid-19 emerged in China in December 2019, it has spread widely and rapidly around the world.
"As of today, there are over 4.5 million cases worldwide, with 24,200 of these in Ireland.
"Sadly, 1,547 people in Ireland have lost their lives. I am acutely conscious of the grief that people have experienced over the past three months."
He expressed his condolences to all those who have lost loved ones.
Irish health authorities first heard reports of a novel coronavirus infection during the second week in January, Mr Holohan said.
In his statement he said: "Immediately, senior public health people in this country began to confer, monitor and collaborate with colleagues internationally.
"It became clear from an early stage that this would become a significant challenge for the world."
"It is equally true that the world’s experience with this virus is still unfolding, with tragic consequences for many countries, irrespective of levels of preparedness, wealth or development."
Mr Holohan said that there were "high levels of preparedness" here "arising from our experience with pandemic influenza and other public health challenges".
"It was quickly clear to us that this virus was very different.
"The ease of its transmission, its severity, particularly for those who are vulnerable, combined with the fact that there is no natural immunity to this virus, no medicines available for its specific treatment and no vaccines, has presented an unprecedented global public health challenge."
On January 30 the World Health Organisation declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The NPHET held its first meeting on January 27 and has hled 31 meetings to date.
Mr Holohan says the NPHET’s role "has been to provide clear advice to the public on how to protect themselves, their families and their communities, and to provide advice to Government, when it was necessary to do so, regarding wider societal public health measures"
It adds: "By mid-March, it became evident that unprecedented action was needed to prevent spread of infection and high rates of hospitalisation and ICU admissions and significant mortality.
"Our collective actions have suppressed the infection and protected the health of people in this country and undoubtedly saved lives."
However, he warns there is "no certainty" the spread of the virus can be kept suppressed.
His remarks are to be made before the Dáil's Special Committee on Covid-19 response.
Mr Holohan is the chairman of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and today's meeting will be TDs' first opportunity to quiz him in public.
He is expected to tell them that the "cornerstone of the response in this country has been based on a public health evaluation of risk and public health-informed recommendations to Government as to what measures can be taken at each point in order to minimise the impact of this disease."
But he will warn: "There is no certainty that we can keep this virus suppressed.
Health Minister Simon Harris has said "very small" weddings with close family and friends might be able to take place in July.
According to the Government road map out of lockdown, small weddings would be permitted in the Republic of Ireland by phase four, which is due to begin on July 20.
Mr Harris told Newstalk FM the Government will be working on more detailed guidance about weddings over the next few weeks.
"Over the next weeks what we have to do is provide more clarity in relation to this. At the moment, what we're saying is we could arrive at a point at stage four in July - and even that date can't be guaranteed - we will have to see how we get on in the next few weeks," he said.
"In stage four of our plan we are saying you could have small social gatherings ie a small wedding or baptism. Small is going to be small - 100 is mot small, 80 or 90 is not small. We are talking about a very small gathering with very close family and friends."
Irish tourists stranded in the Algarve could be stuck there for months to come.
Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair have grounded all flights from the Portuguese coastal region, and there are fears that without Government intervention it could be many more weeks before some of the holidaymakers get home.
Despite still advertising flights from Faro to Dublin from May 31, Aer Lingus has confirmed that all flights from the regional airport are cancelled indefinitely.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has urged Irish citizens to make contact with the Irish Consulate in Lisbon and notify it of their presence.
Two retired Irish couples have spoken of their frustration after they struggled with multiple cancellations and problems rebooking flights and receiving refunds from Aer Lingus.
Qantas Airways Ltd said on Tuesday it would introduce new measures on board such as providing masks and cleaning wipes to ensure safe travel and give passengers peace of mind during the pandemic but it would not leave middle seats empty.
Catering will be simplified, aircraft cleaning will be stepped up and passengers will be asked to limit movement around the cabin once seated as part of the new measures to be put in place from June 12, the airline said.
Masks will not be mandatory but Qantas will recommend that passengers wear them in the interest of everyone's peace of mind, it said.
Qantas Group Medical Director Dr Ian Hosegood said social distancing, such as leaving the middle seat empty, was not practical on board, and the airline did not believe it was needed given the low transmission risk.
"The data shows that actual risk of catching coronavirus on an aircraft is already extremely low," he said. "That's due to a combination of factors, including the cabin air filtration system, the fact people don't sit face-to-face and the high backs of aircraft seats acting as a physical barrier."
The number of women killed in Argentina has reached a 10-year high under coronavirus lockdown, a leading rights group said on Monday, with more than 50 femicides in less than two months.
Three of those women were murdered in just the last four days, according to La Casa del Encuentro, a Buenos Aires-based feminist group that said not only the numbers but the severity of the violence was hugely concerning.
"We're very worried. It's the highest number in 10 years," said Ada Rico, the group's president and director of the organization’s Femicide Observatory watchdog project.
"(Women) are being beaten to death or strangled," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Twelve women are killed every day in Latin America because of their gender in a crime known as femicide, according to the United Nations, and the region is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world.
The vast majority of killings go unprosecuted.
A fresh mortgage arrears crisis is “inevitable” due to the pandemic, a report from a leading academic has warned.
The new research suggests a largely State-owned lender has been driving repossession cases and calls into question the level of supervision being provided by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI).
Dr Padraic Kenna, director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, said given the economic impact of the coronavirus, it was important that mistakes of the past were not repeated.
“Covid-19 will inevitably result in a new round of mortgage arrears, and many of the challenges of the last decade will re-emerge,” he warned.
The coronavirus death toll in Ireland has risen to 1,547 after a further four deaths were announced by the National Public Health Emergency Team.
88 further cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Ireland to 24,200.
Donald Trump has said he is taking a malaria drug to protect against coronavirus, despite warnings from his own government that it should only be administered for Covid-19 in a hospital or research setting due to potentially fatal side effects.
The president told reporters he has been taking hydroxychloroquine and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now”.
He spent weeks pushing the drug as a potential cure for Covid-19 – against the advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals.
The drug has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and has not been shown to combat coronavirus.
Mr Trump said his doctor did not recommend the drug to him but he requested it from the White House physician.
Coronavirus in UK care homes will be thrust into the spotlight again amid reports ministers knew a month ago that temporary workers were helping spread the killer disease.
Care chiefs will appear before MPs on Tuesday to update them on how homes and their staff are coping with the pandemic.
It comes as The Guardian claimed a leaked Public Health England study found workers who transmitted coronavirus across six care homes had been brought in to cover for staff who were self-isolating to prevent the vulnerable people they looked after from becoming infected.
The paper reported the study was conducted over the Easter weekend from April 11 to 13. It alleges the results have been known in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) since at least the end of last month, but were only circulated to care home providers, councils and local directors of public health last week.
Careless theories risk making bats a scapegoat for coronavirus, expert says
Bats have been unfairly blamed for spreading coronavirus and face potential long-term damage to their reputation due to unproven theories and “careless” untruths on the internet, an expert on the winged wonders has said.
Lisa Worledge, head of conservation services at UK charity the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), said the spurious allegations created widespread and “misplaced fear” about the role of the nocturnal critters during the pandemic.
And she said there were fears about the long-term reputation of the famously private creatures as the coronavirus death toll increases, with some countries sanctioning culls in an attempt to stop the spread.
Cormac McQuinn and Ellen Coyne
Ireland could have suffered 39,000 deaths from Covid-19 by today, a Dáil inquiry into the State's response to the pandemic will be told.
The death toll in the country stood at 1,547 last night.
But Department of Health secretary general Jim Breslin will reveal terrifying modelling from the start of the emergency to the Dáil's Special Committee on Covid-19 Response today.
Mr Breslin will also offer a defence of the response to outbreaks in nursing homes as the committee examines witnesses for the first time.
The royal budget could lose millions of pounds in revenue while residences remain closed to tourists during the coronavirus crisis, it has been reported.
Members of staff in the royal household face pay freezes and projects have been halted amid the closures. These include Buckingham Palace, which usually welcomes visitors during summers when the Queen is at Balmoral.
The Sun newspaper reports Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel – the most senior official of the royal household – has warned staff that income is expected to fall by a third this year.
In an email to staff seen by the newspaper, the Lord Chamberlain said the royal household was “not immune” to the impact of the pandemic.
Coronavirus cases in India reached 100,000 on Tuesday, matching the number of intensive care unit beds in the country, while the rate of growth of new infections showed little sign of slowing.
India reported 4,970 new cases over the past 24 hours, taking the total from the outbreak to 101,139. Deaths rose by 134 to 3,163.
The number of Indian cases has easily outstripped China, where the virus originated late last year and which has been one of the infection hotspots in Asia.
China has reported just under 83,000 COVID-19 cases, but has kept the daily rise in new infections to single digits for the past week. In contrast, new cases in India continued to rise by an average of more than 4,000 each day over the past week, according to a Reuters tally based on official data, despite a severe weeks-long lockdown.
India officially extended that lockdown on Sunday to May 31, although several states indicated they would allow businesses to reopen.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has bowed to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent investigation into its management of the international response to the coronavirus.
The move comes after weeks of finger-pointing between the US and China over the pandemic, which has killed more than 300,000 people and devastated the global economy.
The “comprehensive evaluation,” sought by a coalition of African, European and other countries, is intended to review “lessons learned” from WHO’s coordination of the global response to Covid-19.
But it would stop short of examining contentious issues such as the origins of the new coronavirus.