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Private hospitals will be made public for duration of coronavirus pandemic

The State will take control of all private hospital facilities.

Health Minister Simon Harris at today's press briefing.
Health Minister Simon Harris at today's press briefing.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Updated Tue 5:05 PM

PRIVATE HOSPITALS WILL act as part of the public health system for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has announced.

Some 2,000 beds, nine laboratories and thousands of staff have been drafted into the public system, Leo Varadkar said at a press conference today.

Speaking at the same press conference, Health Minister Simon Harris said “there can be no room for public versus private” when responding to the Covid-19 crisis.

“We must of course have equality of treatment, patients with this virus will be treated for free, and they’ll be treated as part of a single, national hospital service. 

“For the duration of this crisis the State will take control of all private hospital facilities and manage all of the resources for the common benefit of all of our people. There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic,” Harris said.

A further 219 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland last night, bringing the total number of cases here to 1,125. There have been six deaths confirmed to date. Updated figures will be announced later today.

Non-essential businesses closing 

A raft of new measures were announced by the government this afternoon – all non-essential businesses are set to close and there will be restrictions on gatherings of more than four people.

“As we navigate through this very difficult public health emergency, we have clearly asked the Irish people to make real and great sacrifices. If we’re being honest, it’s all a bit surreal for people.

“People didn’t see this coming – this is something that came upon us as a country and a world so quickly,” Harris said.

He added that the Irish people “have risen to that challenge”, and there are “early and encouraging signs” of the impact of this.

However, he said “now is the time clearly to do more” and “intensive, sustained, public health action” is required to help flatten the curve of the virus.

The new measures were agreed by Cabinet earlier today following a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team this morning. They will remain in place until at least Sunday, 19 April.

All non-essential retail outlets have been told to close, with restaurants and cafés told to close unless they can offer a take-away option. Supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open.

There will be no restrictions on the amount of times a person can leave their home a day but people are being told not to exceed groups of four people.

Individuals should work from home unless workplace attendance is essential.

All theatres, clubs, gyms, leisure centres, hairdressers, betting shops, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and similar outlets are to close.

All sporting events are cancelled, including those behind closed doors. All playgrounds and holiday/caravan parks are also due to close.

Varadkar also confirmed that the new Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment will rise to €350, while Revenue will run a temporary wage scheme to guarantee 70% of wages up to €38,000.

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Órla Ryan

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