The partners of healthcare workers will be provided with paid leave to help with childcare, the Taoiseach has said.
Leo Varadkar said that while providing childcare to health workers was an ongoing issue, a proposal was considered by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) yesterday which has two aspects.
One of these is to provide paid leave to the partners of people who work in the healthcare sector. This would allow people who work in the public sector to stay at home and provide childcare.
“That has been approved by NPHET so we can try and action that now over the next couple of weeks,” Mr Varadkar said.
“The difficulty is though that really only works where it’s a public sector household.
“It isn’t an adequate answer for those who either are public healthcare workers or one is in the private sector and one is in the public sector.
“So the second piece which NPHET still has reservations about is using child minders to go into people’s homes.
“But that’s now going to be considered as something that perhaps could kick in on May 5 as part of a general easing of restrictions. But they’re not happy for us to do right now.”
Mr Varadkar made the comments as he visited a homeless Covid-19 response hub in Granegorman with Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and Minister for Health Simon Harris.
Mr Varadkar also said that a road map to easing restrictions is not yet completed.
“It will be completed and agreed and shared with the Irish public before May 5,” he added.
“I don’t want to say that there’s X number of steps now and then tell you it’s a different thing in a few weeks’ time.
“But I think it would be fair to say that among the last things that will be returned to normal are major gatherings where you have a lot of people gathering together in a way that’s hard to social distance, in a way that’s hard to keep people apart by two metres.
“I suppose there are things that are most likely to come last.
“That’s not particular to alcohol, it could be any mass gatherings.”
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister said it is “very likely” he will taper and change the Covid-19 welfare subsidies when they expire after 12 weeks.
Paschal Donohoe said the decision will depend on the state of the economy and how Ireland is tackling Covid-19.
He said many of the financial aid packages introduced last month are not sustainable, with more than 40,000 companies now relying on the wage subsidy scheme.
Speaking to RTE’s Morning Ireland, Mr Donohoe said: “Many of the measures that we have in place at the moment from an economic point of view, we cannot sustain them indefinitely, but we will be able to sustain them for long enough to allow incomes to continue to be protected, where possible, and to give over 40,000 companies that are currently on our income subsidy scheme a fighting chance of returning to economic and business health.”
Mr Donohoe said Ireland’s peak unemployment figure is likely to reach 22%, and then fall to around 14% by the end of the year.
However, if the coronavirus crisis worsens, the country’s deficit could go up by the end of the year.
The minister added: “It could go up because it takes longer for our unemployment rate to go down, and because we need to make further economic decisions.
“The second thing that would mean, if the reduction in unemployment that I believe we will achieve, that could take longer to happen if things turn out differently with our public health.
“But what I would say in relation to that scenario is the foundation of where we want to get to with our economy is confidence in public health in the first place.
“If things do change in relation to the virus and our ability to combat it, because of many of the strengths that we still do have in our economy we will still be able to get to a place of employment and income growing again. But if the virus takes longer to contain, it could take longer to get there.”
Mr Donohoe described the 22% unemployment figure as “horrific”, but added that he is not applying any pressure to restart the economy.
The Department of Health confirmed a further 49 Covid-19-related deaths on Wednesday, taking the total since the outbreak began to 769.
An additional 113 deaths are suspected to have links to coronavirus, the Department of Health has said.
Some 47,400 employers are taking up the Government’s Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.
At a Government press briefing on Tuesday, senior civil servant Liz Canavan said the total payments so far amounted to 370 million euro.
Ms Canavan said another 21 million euro in payments would be in accounts on Thursday.