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5,156 new Covid-19 cases confirmed as Donohoe calls for 'coordinated' message with Nphet

110 people are in intensive care units with the coronavirus

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe

Laura Lynott

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has been notified of 5,156 confirmed cases of Covid-19 today.

As of 8am today, 503 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised of which 110 were in intensive care units.

Meanwhile, Finance Minster Paschal Donohoe said the Government wants to ensure a “coordinated” message going forward with regards to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

However, he added, “members of Nphet will continue to have the ability to comment on the disease.”

However, when asked by This Week on RTÉ Radio 1, if Nphet had “had its wings clipped” by the Government, Mr Donohoe denied this.

He said the Government wanted to “ensure our efforts” in communication on Covid-19 were carried out in a “coordinated way.”

“We are only trying to ensure the same communication is in place,” he added.

“At the end of last week... as we were making decisions, it was a challenging period, as different information was available,” he said.

“What I’m aware of are there are listeners to this programme, workers in the economy, who are hearing different scenarios of what's happening.”

He added that this was a concern because people were concerned “for their future,” and thus communications should be aligned.

“Nphet provided excellent public health advice but as our effort continues beyond the second year, co-ordination is important - that's all we want to do here,” Minister Donohoe said.

In relation to comments by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who earlier described new restrictions as “peculiar” given the current downward trajectory of the virus, Mr Donohoe said: “What the Tánaiste is doing is acknowledging the health context in this guidance is very different to where we would have been a year ago, or in earlier parts in the pandemic.

“If you look at where we are, there are some signs of stability, with where we are, to a number of weeks ago.

“The number of people in our hospitals is at a lower point than it has been in recent weeks.

“We are seeing early signs of case numbers in our older people (decreasing).

“The reason I'm saying all that is it’s important to note the rationale for public health guidelines, means there's a precautionary element to them.

“We are uncertain of (what’s going to happen ) with the new variant.”

Mr Donohoe was asked if Mr Varadkar had undermined public health advice, with his statement.

Minister Donohoe denied this, stating: “The Tánaiste and the entire Government are supporting the public health regulations. The rationale is really specific.

“The Government adopted the recommendations from Nphet. There are some signs of progress, which will allow us to beat the disease but we are entering into a period of heightened risk to prevent the risk materialising.”

Meanwhile, Mr Donohoe said from “November alone” €369m had been spent on the Employment Wage Subsidy (EWSS) scheme.

The Government had “changed” the scheme for not only businesses closed or with a low level of trade but for those with higher trade and keeping businesses open but which are affected by restrictions.

The subsidy will be capped at €5,000 a week, but the Hotels Federation of Ireland (HFI) said it was not satisfied with the rate into January and February on RTÉ.

“It’s important to put context around it (the decision),” Minister Donohoe said.

“The Government has invested over €8bn on supports to allow our economy to go back to levels of employment now higher than before Covid hit.

“The level of cap of €5,000 is in place for small and medium sized businesses.

“The Government will make a decision over the coming days on the cap, we understand the decision was based on premises largely closed.

“We need a review for open businesses. We will make a decision in the next few days and we will have money flowing to affected businesses the week after next (regarding the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme CRSS.)”

Minister Donohoe said the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is to be reopened.

“The Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys, will complete it quickly,” he added.

The Government wants to “ensure people affected by public health regulations,” are financially supported.

“We have to get our country through the pandemic, we will succeed and support our economy.

“The whole principal of the PUP is for people who find their employment gone for reasons beyond their control.

“We want to support them… The economy will recover.

“Those who lost jobs before (the announcement) they will still be on the level of PUP they were previously on, for some it could be higher.”

The details will be further ironed out, he added, within the coming days.

The Sunday Independent reported that people who lose their jobs from Tuesday, as a result of the new restrictions, will receive the full PUP of €350 a week, but anyone currently receiving the PUP will not have their payments increased to that level.

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