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Coveney promises 'significant' extra financial help for workers that lose jobs due to coronavirus crisis

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Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)

Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)

Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)

THE government is promising a "significant" financial support package that goes "well beyond" payments already on offer for people who lose their jobs in the coronavirus crisis.

Tániaste Simon Coveney made the remarks as the government comes under pressure from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin over the supports that have been provided so far.

The main measure put in place is a €203-per week 'Covid payment' which the opposition say has not gone far enough.

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath claimed the government's response for workers has been "weak" and out of step with other countries, including the UK which is pledging to maintain pay for virus-hit workers at 80pc of salaries.

Mr McGrath said: "It is not tenable to expect those who have lost their job to survive on €203".

There are reports today that the government is considering a wage subsidy scheme that pays up to 75pc of wages to affected workers as has been introduced in Denmark.

Sinn Féin is suggesting an income support scheme that will guarantee an income of up to €525 per week for 20 weeks for all workers that are laid off.

Mr Coveney said he spoke to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe this morning.

"I want to reassure people that the government are going to introduce a significant and supportive economic package in the coming days that will go well beyond what we have announced to date".

He told RTÉ Radio that the measures will keep employees and employers connected through this crisis they will "treat everybody equally" including people who have already lost their jobs and those who will in the weeks to come.

"We're not going to do what some of the countries have done which is to provide support packages for certain sectors, or certain numbers of employees but not others.

"We want to do something that provides a guaranteed level of income for everybody across the country that have lost their jobs."

He said the purpose of keeping employers and employees connected is so after the emergency "we can allow the economy to recover as quickly as possible."

Mr Coveney added: "that is complicated" and criticised anyone that "outlines simplistic ideas that involves billions of euros and hundreds of thousands of people".

"That is not a straightforward process, we want to be able to announce something and then deliver on that announcement straight away."

He said government Departments are finalising the package and he hopes it will be announced in the middle of the week.

Mr Coveney said he hopes the political cooperation seen so far in the crisis is not fraying.

He said that Mr McGrath didn't raise such concerns during talks with Fine Gael last week.

"I would say to people is, this isn't an election. This is an emergency, and party politics should be set aside."

"If people have sensible proposals that are cost or thought out that they believe are necessary and will make a difference we want to hear about them," he said.

"We have an understanding, I thought, with other political parties - all of them including Sinn Féin - that if people have contributions that they want to make the government wants to take them on board if they make sense."

Mr Coveney said that hand hygiene and social distancing advice must be taken "deadly seriously".

He said: "if you look at what's happening in Italy right now, the extraordinary tragedy that unfolded - 800 people yesterday died of this virus.

"We need to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that that's not Ireland’s story in a few weeks time."

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has today called for Ireland's response to coronavirus needs to be scaled up.

She told Newstalk Radio's On The Record that every workplace where it's not possible to have safe social distancing should be closed.

Earlier she put out a statement arguing that while her party welcomed interventions to slow down the virus "the truth is that we now need more urgent, decisive action from the government."

She said: "Social distancing is central to this strategy, but Government Ministers can't criticise young people for gathering together, while at the same time saying that gathering of up to five hundred people outdoors are still allowed. The mixed messages must stop."

Ms McDonald added: "It is time now to scale up emergency measures and restrictions. Other countries have learned, to their cost, that delay costs lives. We don’t want to learn that lesson here."

Mr Coveney said he had listened to what Ms McDonald and others said today but added: "we need to be very careful here that we don't make decisions on the basis of political pressure."

He said the government's decisions are made on the basis of the advice of the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan and his team.

"If it is necessary in the days and weeks ahead to tighten the restrictions that we've currently asked people to comply with we will do that."
He said this is the advice of the CMO it will be done immediately.

"But it’s important that we do make decisions on the basis of information and expertise and not on the back of political statements that don't necessarily have a basis in medical expertise," Mr Coveney said.

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