Taoiseach: Pandemic unemployment payment will be extended

A decision on extending or cutting the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment may have to be made by the next government, the Taoiseach has said.

The €350 weekly payment is due to expire on June 8 but Leo Varadkar confirmed it will continue past this date.

However, Mr Varadkar told the Dáil the decision to extend it may not be made by the current government.

Government formation talks are ongoing, more than 100 days since February’s inconclusive general election result.

Mr Varadkar said: “The economy is only slowly opening up now and it is going to have to be extended.

“Nobody needs to worry, the payment expires if you get your job back but anyone who has not been offered their job back will continue to receive the payment beyond June.

“Government will have to make a decision.

“This government or the new government will have to make a decision as to how long it will be extended until.

“We also have to deal with some of the anomalies as some people are receiving more money on the payment than they did in January or February before the pandemic began.

“None of these decisions have to be made now and they may well be decisions for the next government and we may require a further revised estimates in the coming weeks.”

Earlier, the HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said Covid-19 has been moved off the streets of Ireland and is mainly being spread among households.

Dr Henry said the number of contacts of people confirmed with Covid-19 is now less than three.

Dr Henry told RTÉ Morning Ireland: “It is important to remind people of the gains that we have made as a country.

“We have seen a 70% reduction in the number of people in our ICUs and a 70% reduction in the number of people in our hospitals.

“We have seen the virus beaten off the streets in our towns and cities and into households.

“So much so that the number of contacts per confirmed case has gone from a peak of 20 to less than three and sometimes two.

Early today it was reported that spending billions is required to support economic recovery, but any new government will face tough choices over cuts and tax hikes if it is to meet Sláintecare and housing pledges.

That's according to the acting chair of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Advisory Council (Ifac) Sebastian Barnes.

In its first major report on the Covid-19 economic fallout, the fiscal watchdog said the next government should not rule out tax increases or freezing public sector pay if the country’s ability to fight a further crisis is not undermined, as debt levels reach “near record levels”.