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Unemployment payment to be extended, but reduced for part-timers

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dail that the pandemic unemployment payment will be extended ‘for months, not weeks’.

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Leo Varadkar after a media briefing on coronavirus outside Government Buildings (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Leo Varadkar after a media briefing on coronavirus outside Government Buildings (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Leo Varadkar after a media briefing on coronavirus outside Government Buildings (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the pandemic unemployment payment will be extended for months, not weeks.

The 350 euro weekly payment was introduced in March and was due to expire in June.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail on Thursday that the payment will be extended but the amount paid to part-time workers will be cut.

“It will be extended for months, not weeks.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

“No-one who is working full time before the pandemic will see their unemployment payment cut, it will stay at 350 euro a week for those working full-time before the pandemic hit.

“Some people who were working part-time will see their payment reduced but their weekly payment will still be more that what they were earning on a weekly basis before the pandemic hit.”

While he cautioned against speeding up the pace at which the country moves out of the lockdown, Mr Varadkar told the Dail that the Government has made proposals to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to bring forward the easing of some restrictions.

He said: “We have made proposals to the chief medical officer (Tony Holohan) and NPHET about bringing things forward from four and three and three and two.

“NPHET is considering the proposals and Government will make a decision on that on Friday morning and inform the public of the decision on Friday afternoon.”

Cabinet will meet tomorrow to decide whether it is safe to move to phase two next week.

“We need to be confident that it is safe before making that move,” Mr Varadkar added.

“I am concerned that this week we have seen many people calling for us to accelerate things and jump ahead, before we have the data from the past few days that tells us the impact of the phase one lifting of restrictions had on the spread of the disease.

“I believe it is better to opt for a slow and steady approach rather than moving too fast and risk falling backwards.

“Our plan for re-opening the country can be accelerated but only if it is safe to do so.”

He said he hopes non-essential air travel can resume between Ireland and other countries, but it would be weeks away.

“I hope that as the world returns to a new normality, we will see international air travel resume between air bridges with countries that have suppressed the virus to the similar extent as us.

“With air bridges we can lift travel requirements if people are flying to or from another country where the virus has been successfully suppressed.

“This however is some weeks away and it is far too soon for anyone to book their holiday, but summer is not yet lost.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has accused the Government of “settling into a quite rigid” approach to deciding on changes and steps in the road map.

He also said that some people in communities are breaking restrictions.

“There is simply no doubt that compliance is fraying – and the biggest problem with this is that it is highly divisive,” he told the Dail.

“The majority continue to fully respect the guidelines and the tension between those who ignore the guidelines and those who feel a threat to their health cannot be ignored.

“The spirit of being in this together can only be protected if we get everyone back on the same agenda.

“While we cannot be guided only by practice in other countries – it falls to our Government to explain when the policies we are pursuing differ significantly from those in place in other countries.

“We are currently in the absurd situation where it is easier for an Irish person to plan a holiday in much of Europe than it is to plan one here.”

Ireland’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,659 on Wednesday, after a further three fatalities were announced.

There were 47 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 25,111.

PA