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Minister makes Covid-19 testing a priority in bid to reassure older people

Health Minister vows to keep testing people for Covid-19 as number of confirmed cases set to surge.


Minister for Health Simon Harris ((Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Health Simon Harris ((Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Health Simon Harris ((Brian Lawless/PA)

The Health Minister has moved to reassure older people the Government will look after them as the number of cases of Covid-19 is expected to rise to 15,000 by the end of the month.

Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, Simon Harris said: “We expect anywhere between 10-15,000 tests for Covid-19 being ordered in the coming days.

“It is going to take several days for your test to be processed. Some countries have decided to go against WHO guidelines and have stopped testing in the community – we will test, test, test.

“I really don’t want anybody in our country to be scared because we have to look after the health of all our people.

“Older people should not be worried – it is an uncertain time, but we are going to mind you.

“I’m very conscious of older people reading newspapers and looking at broadcasts – there should not be a sense of panic or fear. My advice today is that if you are an older person or a person with an underlying health condition – do try and stay at home as much as possible.

“If we arrive to a point where that advice needs to change, we will be working with community organisations, we will be working with older people to make sure they all have the support that they need.”

The Government may have to introduce measures to support people who are unable to pay rent because they are not able to work amid the Covid-19 outbreak, Regina Doherty has said.

The Minister for Social Protection called on landlords to acknowledge that “we are all in this together”.

Up to 150,000 people have lost their jobs due to the outbreak, and the figure is set to rise in the weeks ahead.

There are 292 confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland.

Ten new cases were announced in Northern Ireland on Tuesday, bringing the total number there to 62.

“We’re in this together. Somebody who doesn’t have anything more than 203 quid a week, they’re going to buy food,” Ms Doherty said.

On Tuesday night in an address to the nation, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that “everyone in our society must show solidarity in this time of national sacrifice”.

Everybody needs to be mindful and cognisant that we will get through this and come out the other endRegina Doherty

Ms Doherty said she understood the new Pandemic Unemployment Payment of 203 euro per week to help people who have lost their job may not be high enough for those paying rent.

She called on landlords to have some understanding during this time.

Ms Doherty said: “If people can’t afford to pay their rents, they’re not going to be able to magic up some money between now and the end of the month, the end of next month.

“Everybody needs to be mindful and cognisant that we will get through this and come out the other end.”

Meanwhile, people who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 and are unable to pay their mortgage need a simple solution from the Government, Michael McGrath said.

The Fianna Fail finance spokesman said thousands of people will be unable to make their repayments in the weeks ahead, and they need “simplicity and speed”.

Speaking to RTE radio, he said there are thousands of Irish people who pay their mortgages to vulture funds instead of banks and will require help in the weeks ahead.

Mr McGrath: “Increasingly over the the last number of years, the banks have been selling on loan portfolios to non-bank loan owners, including vulture funds.

“They now own well in excess of 100,000 mortgages in Ireland. They too need to be spoken to and the people whose loans have been sold need an assurance that they too will be treated with respect and will be afforded the time and space to get through this difficult period.”

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is to meet the chief executives of the major banks on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a joint plan to provide support for customers affected by Covid-19.

The five main banks include Bank of Ireland, AIB, Permanent TSB, KBC and Ulster Bank.

Ms Doherty said the banks will make an announcement of supports to homes and businesses later on Wednesday afternoon.

It comes as Mr Varadkar warned issues related to the outbreak of Covid-19 in Ireland could go on for a “number of months”.