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Coronavirus: Government says cases on rise, warns of up to 100,000 job losses, crisis could go on for 'months, not weeks'

Tanaiste Simon Coveney added that citizens were advised against all travel, including to the UK.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS this evening announced it expects a 30% increase per day in the number of cases of coronavirus.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that community testing is increasing and that health officials are “stepping up the focus on contact tracing and increased messaging about social distancing”.

The government made the announcement after a further meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19.

Varadkar said “we need to flatten the curve” and that there would be an exponential increase in the number of cases over the coming days and weeks – around 30% per day. He also warned people to expect this to go on for “months, not weeks”.

The Taoiseach said that 15,000 virus cases were expected in Ireland by the end of the month but that most wouldn’t need treatment. The objective was to “slow the progress of the virus”, he said.

He also warned of the threat to the economy of the country and said there could be up to 100,000 jobs lost in the coming weeks.

The government also announced that it would publish emergency legislation tomorrow to give it “very specific powers including prohibiting some events and mass gatherings, imposing travel restrictions; and detaining and isolating people who are possible sources of Covid-19 if they don’t submit to self-isolation”.

In a press conference this evening, Minister for Health Simon Harris also said a massive Health Service recruitment campaign would be launched tomorrow, making a special plea to Irish healthcare workers abroad, to those working part-time and to medical students, saying “we need you”.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney added that citizens were advised against all travel, including to the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland. He said we could expect to see “enormous disruption to air travel in the coming days”.

The announcement comes as travel restrictions were put in place in several other places.

Earlier today, the President of the European Commission announced proposals to introduce a temporary 30-day restriction on non-essential travel to the EU. 

Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement in a bid to reduce the pressure on the healthcare systems of EU member states and could come into effect once EU member states agree.

The government announced it was establishing a Pandemic Unemployment Payment to help people who have lost work because of the coronavirus outbreak.  

The payment of €203 per week will be available, for a six-week period, to all employees and the self-employed who have been affected by the seizing up of economic activity. 

Yesterday, Health Minister Simon Harris advised that all pubs should close until at least 29 March. Publican groups have said their members should follow the advice. 

About the author:

Laura Byrne  / Assistant News Editor

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