Follow the latest coronavirus news in Ireland and across the world on the Independent.ie live blog.
Ireland needs to step up investment and job support or risk rise in unemployment, European Commission warns
Ireland needs to step its job and company supports and to push ahead with capital investment plans otherwise there is a risk that more firms will fail and unemployment will rise sharply, the European Commission said in its annual assessment.
The economic policy recommendations, which were compiled as the coronavirus shock swept across Europe, also noted that the pandemic had piled pressure on the State’s already overburdened health system and exposed the weaknesses of the lack of universal healthcare here.
Even though the Government has introduced a raft of income support spending as well as measures to keep companies alive during the lockdown and beyond, the Commission warned that the “risk of significant output loss, bankruptcies and insolvencies, and an increase in unemployment and people at risk of poverty, remain high”.
‘Welfare supports helped compliance with coronavirus restrictions’ – Regina Doherty
WELFARE supports put in place for people that lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis helped compliance with the restrictions on everyday life, the Dáil has been told.
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty made the remarks as TDs debated her Department’s response to the Covid-19 emergency.
She said that the unemployment payments will “absolutely” be extended next month but said decisions have not been taken on the “shape or the form” of the support.
Fine Gael politician Ms Doherty lost her seat in the election but continues on as minister in a caretaker capacity in the absence of a new government.
She laid out the supports her Department is providing including the €350-a-week Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), which is being claimed by 585,000 people.
Ms Doherty said the help on offer “may not be perfect but much of it is good”.
11 further deaths and 64 new additional cases
The Department of Health has been notified of 11 further deaths linked to Covid-19 and 64 new additional cases.
There have now been a total 1,571 Covid related deaths in Ireland, and a total of 24,315 confirmed cases.
The HSE is working to identify any contacts the patients may have had to provide them with information and advice to prevent further spread.
Dr. Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, said: “To date, 87pc of confirmed cases diagnosed with Covid-19 have recovered.
“This is very positive news but should not deflect from the impact this disease has had on individuals and families. In addition, it does not change the risk for any one individual who is diagnosed with the disease today, or in the future.
“Public health advice is there to provide everyone with the best protection possible. Please follow it and continue to protect yourself and each other.”
Families prepare to run at-home mini marathon for charity
Families across Ireland will put their fitness levels to the test by participating in a mini marathon to raise funds for CRY Ireland (Cardiac Risk in the Young) this month.
Those taking part can run, walk or cycle 10km within a 5km radius of their home on May 31.
The at-home marathon will be held in place of the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon, which has been cancelled due to concerns linked to Covid-19.
Many of those that usually take part in the mini marathon include families and friends that have been affected by sudden cardiac death (SCD).
CRY Ireland chief executive officer, Lucia Ebbs said the health crisis has had a “huge impact” on the organisation’s fundraisers.
Most services at the CRY Centre have been deferred due to Covid-19.
She said: “We are so grateful to all the families and friends who have continued to support us during this time. We hope that you will join us on May 31 in doing 10K in your 5K and don’t forget to tag us in all your posts.”
Nicola Finn, from Co Dublin, lost her husband, Andrew to SCD 10 years ago.
Ms Finn was pregnant with their first child at the time.
She said: “CRY has become an integral part of our lives and the services they provide are truly invaluable.
“I’m asking the public to join me and take to the street to do 10km within your 5km. By getting involved and donating, CRY can save lives and continue to support families like mine. I’m hoping we can manage to raise a fraction of the amount we normally do. It may not be millions but it all helps.”
Find out more about the 10k in your 5k – Women’s Mini Marathon here.
‘Pods’ of playmates, regular handwashing and special drop-off points – how the government plans to reopen creches
‘PODS’ of playmates for children, regular handwashing and special drop-off points are among a string of measures being considered for the reopening of creches next month.
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone outlined preliminary guidance for childcare providers as creches prepare to reopen for “essential workers” under the government roadmap as early as June 29.
Ms Zappone warned that the reopening of creches is “not zero risk” and that coronavirus transmission is expected.
She said there will be an incident “but we can manage it, not prevent it.”
More than 320,000 killed by virus worldwide
Coronavirus has infected more than 4.9 million people across the world and killed over 320,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Q&A: Is there any evidence to back up Trump’s decision to take antimalarial medicine to reduce risk of Covid-19?
Q. Is the drug that US President Donald Trump taking to reduce his risk of getting the coronavirus used in Ireland?
A. The drug hydroxychloroquine is used here as an antimalarial medicine. It is also used to treat conditions like lupus – an autoimmune disease – and arthritis, where it can help combat inflammation.
Q. It has been in the news now since March as a possible treatment for the coronavirus. Is there evidence for Mr Trump’s decision?
A. No. The main area of research in hospitals around the world, including in Ireland, is its role in treating patients who are very sick with the virus. Mr Trump has been taking it for two weeks on a prophylactic, or preventative, basis.
Courts to sit for no longer than two hours per day
Aine McMahon, PA
All physical court sittings are to be limited to two hours daily, the Chief Justice has announced.
It comes as TDs and ministers have been advised to not spend more than two hours per day inside the Dail chamber.
In a statement, the Courts Service said it was unaware, until the matter became public on Tuesday, “of what appears to be additional safety considerations beyond those already published”.
“The Courts Service have sought urgent further advices on this matter as it clearly has the potential to affect the conduct of court hearings or sessions likely to involve judges and registrars, together with others, being in a courtroom for more than two hours in a day.
“Pending receipt of such additional advices the presidents have determined that all court sittings will last for no more than two hours in each day.”
The decision does not apply to remote hearings which will continue as planned.
Decision to impose Covid-19 lockdown taken by experts at 1am emergency meeting
The dramatic decision to order the closure of the country’s schools and begin the virtual shutdown of the economy was taken at a 1am emergency meeting by the country’s health experts, it has emerged.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan revealed for the first time the alarm which he and his officials felt on March 11 when it became clear cases of the coronavirus were going to escalate from a small handful to a doubling within 48 hours.
“We convened a meeting at 9pm. It concluded at 1am and the announcements were made the following morning by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar,” he said.
He was speaking at his daily briefing yesterday, weeks after the unprecedented announcements, which saw the country hit by financial turmoil and ongoing curbs on personal freedoms.
House prices due to fall sharply in wake of pandemic rices
House prices are likely to fall sharply over the next year, a leading think tank has predicted.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has warned that prices are set to plunge by 12pc by the end of next year, with the property market likely to be sluggish over the next year and a half.
Economic impacts from the virus will have a huge dampening effect on house prices, particularly the drop in household income and the surge in unemployment.
The new research paper suggests the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic will also likely lead to a decline in private investment in housing.
‘It’s like Christmas’ – McDonald’s reopens six drive-thrus in Dublin
MCDONALD’S have opened up six drive-thru restaurants in Dublin today and customers across the city took to their cars to treat themselves pandemic style.
For most, a trip to McDonald’s was something we took for granted pre Covid-19 but in the days of the “new normal,” a jaunt to get a Big Mac has been impossible for eight weeks.
But today, at 11am six drive-thru restaurants opened up in Dublin, on Malahide Road, Nutgrove, Kylemore Road, East Wall, Artane and Tallaght.
And even before opening time, cars had steadily waited in the carpark of the Malahide Road, Coolock, drive-thru area.
Reopening of schools likely to be ‘staged and difficult’ warns teaching union
Rebecca Black, PA
The reopening of schools is “likely to be staged and difficult”, a teaching union representative has said.
Mark Langhammer of the National Education Union told Stormont’s education committee that when schools return there should be a “recovery curriculum” to help children readjust to the classroom.
Some schools have remained open throughout the pandemic to accommodate the children of key workers.
Details of how the rest will fully reopen have not yet been announced.
“Realistically 2020-21 will be an unusual year also, it won’t be business as usual because reopening is likely to be staged and difficult,” Mr Langhammer said.
“Obviously schools will not be accommodating all pupils at all times so home-based learning will remain at least in part.
Charity urges Nphet to ease lockdown restrictions after new survey shows 89pc believe that being with extended family and friends is a key part of the grieving process
A charity has written to Nphet urging the easing of funeral restrictions after a survey showed that almost one in ten believe that being with extended family and friends is a key part of the grieving process.
However, this may not be possible with strict funeral restrictions and family members being unable to physically attend the funeral of a loved one amid the lockdown.
A survey conducted by Behaviour and Attitudes for the Irish Hospice Foundation also found that 68pc think that the pandemic has made society rethink the way it deals with death and bereavement
Over half of respondents said they struggle to know what to say to someone who is bereaved or to know how to support them and this rose to 77pc among those aged under 34.
Deficit of €23m to €30m expected this year, says finance minister
Gabija Gataveckaite reports
Finance minister Paschal Donohoe says that a deficit of €23m to €30m is being expected this year.
Speaking on Newstalk this morning, the minister said that the Irish government is borrowing “a lot of money” in an effort to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
“We’re already indicating for this year we will have a deficit of between €23 and €30bn, so the level of borrowing that many are calling on me to do is now being done that’s why for example we have the wage subsidy scheme in plac,” he said.
He added that the interest on this debt will continue to rise.
“The cost of the interest rates cost a huge amount of money then and the kind of refinancing that many are talking about doing we have already done.
“We’re already borrowing a lot of money and we’ll continue to do so but that money at a point in time will have to be repaid back or borrowed again and that’s when the catch in the argument comes in,” he added.
Aer Lingus says face coverings mandatory on flights from Thursday, May 21
All passengers flying with Aer Lingus will be required to wear a mask “or suitable face covering” from Thursday, May 21.
The airline began requesting the use of masks or coverings “from the point of boarding the aircraft until they are inside the destination airport” this Monday, but will move to making them mandatory tomorrow.
“This is a temporary measure to enable us collectively play our part in keeping everyone safe on board,” it said. “Maintaining a safe and healthy environment for our customers and our staff is our number one priority.”
It recommends passengers bring “sufficient face coverings for the duration of their journey”. These do not have to be medical face masks, but can be reusable cloth or disposable coverings.
WATCH: Trump defends use of unproven drug for coronavirus
US President Donald Trump defended his use of 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.
He said it was up to individuals to make their own decisions.
Coronavirus Ireland: cases recorded at meat plants increase by 328 in the last week as plants put ‘significant measures’ in place
The number of cases at meat plants across the country have increased by 328 in the past week as Meat Industry Ireland have insisted that “significant measures” are in place.
Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said at yesterday’s Covid-19 press briefing that there is now 16 clusters across meat processing plants, with a total of 828 cases, which is an increase of 328 from last week.
However, speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, senior director of Meat Industry Ireland Cormac Healy said that “significant measures” are in place to minimise outbreaks.
“The members of Meat Industry Ireland that are involved in meat processing have had, from the early days in this pandemic, put measures in place. From the middle of March, members of Meat Industry Ireland had put measures in place, well before the government got into overall emergency lockdown approaches,” he said.
Women are more likely to drink, eat junk food and feel depressed during lockdown, CSO study finds
Women were more likely to feel “downhearted or depressed” at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown.
New research on the social impact of the pandemic in Ireland found women were more likely to drink more, and much less likely to drink less, during lockdown.
Between April 23 and May 1, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) carried out a study to examine the social impact of Covid-19.
It found that almost 40pc of women felt “downhearted or depressed” at least some of the time in the four weeks before the study, compared with just over one in four men.
Teary graduations, signed yearbooks, and end of year rituals: How the class of 2020 will miss more than the Leaving Cert
It’s not just the Leaving Cert that is gone for the class of 2020. The end-of-year rituals – from the school Mass to the teary graduations – have all had to go, leaving sixth-years with a sense of loss.
In ordinary times, this period marks the calm before the high-stakes exams begin, a time to celebrate the ending of school days with friends and teachers who have guided their young charges through the rough and the smooth.
Actor Matt Damon lifted the spirits among his new neighbours in Dalkey, with a video message for sixth-years in the local Loreto Abbey, but principals and teachers everywhere are trying to find ways to mark the end of an era for their pupils.
At Moville Community College, Co Donegal, rites of passage traditionally include a morning of games that students and teachers enjoy together before everyone sits down for an al fresco lunch.
WATCH: Belfast PPE store sees new demand from resuming healthcare services
One of Northern Ireland’s main PPE stores is adapting to changing demands as orders start to flow in from health services paused during the height of the pandemic.
The store on the grounds of the Belfast City Hospital site services all hospital and healthcare settings in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust area.
Pandemic could push millions of Africans into poverty, warns UN chief
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has warned that the coronavirus pandemic threatens Africa’s progress and could push millions into extreme poverty.
He said in a video message launching a policy report on the Impact of Covid-19 in Africa that countries on the continent have responded swiftly to the crisis, and reported cases are so far lower than feared with more than 2,500 deaths.
The virus is present in all African countries with most recording fewer than 1,000 cases, the 28-page UN report said
The relatively low numbers of confirmed cases “have raised hopes that African countries may be spared the worst of the pandemic”, the report said.
South Koreans return to school amid virus outbreak
South Korean students began returning to schools on Wednesday as their country prepares for a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a reminder that returning to normalcy will not be easy, students in some schools near Seoul were quickly asked to leave and return home after two students were found to have contracted the virus.
South Korean health authorities reported 32 new cases over a 24-hour period, the first time the daily jump has been above 30 in more than a week.
Hundreds of thousands of high school seniors entered their schools after having their temperatures checked and rubbing their hands with sanitiser on Wednesday morning.
WHO launches investigation of its handling of pandemic
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.
‘The virus was too strong’ – four children left orphaned by Covid-19
Miguel Plangca was 36 when he left his home in Ozamis city in the Philippines for a new life in Ireland.
Like many Filipinos who relocate here, he had come for employment and managed to secure a job in Naas with Green Isle, one of the country’s biggest frozen food producers.
For the next 20 years he did little else but work, clocking up thousands of gruelling hours on the factory packaging line and sending money home to his wife Gilceria and his five children in the Philippines.
When Gilceria died from cancer in 2015, his heartbroken children came to live with him in Naas, Co Kildare.
Spiralling cost of coronavirus: Job losses, and a 40pc increase in the cost of Children’s Hospital
The massive costs of the coronavirus crisis are mounting with feared extra spending on the national children’s hospital (NCH) and plans for Covid-19 testing over the next year predicted to run into hundreds of millions of euro.
The Dáil probe into the State’s response to the emergency heard the cost of the NCH – which had spiralled before the pandemic and was due to hit €1.7bn – could rise by as much as 40pc, based on Construction Industry Federation estimates on the impact of new protocols for building sites, bringing the final bill to €2.4bn.
Another 16 people died from the virus yesterday, as Department of Health secretary general Jim Breslin said he expected the Covid-19 emergency to last for years.
HSE chief Paul Reid earlier said plans for testing and contact tracing were set to cost “several hundreds of millions of euro”. And the impact of the emergency on employment is growing, with DAA, which runs Dublin and Cork airports, warning of hundreds of job losses.
Source: Irish News