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Covid 19 update 3.4.2020

(03 Apr 2020)

Colleagues 

I hope you are all keeping safe and well.

Please see the latest Covid 19 update from Q4PR.

Hopefully the information is more up to date.Thank you for your feedback following the last issue. We are giving further thought to the issue of members experiences of working from home and we will revert to you on that. If anyone else has suggestions, we would welcome them.

Ciaran Rohan

General Secretary 

 

Public Affairs Update | COVID-19 Crisis

3rd April 2020

The COVID-19 crisis deepened further this week with significant additional restrictions on movement and business activity effectively putting Ireland into full lockdown. As wide-ranging efforts continue to battle the pandemic, the Dáil met to approve further emergency measures and negotiations continued between the political parties on government formation albeit at a slower pace. 

Given the ongoing volatility across politics, the economy and business arising from this unprecedented public health crisis, we are once again sharing with you this week’s public affairs and COVID-19 update which may prove a useful resource for your planning and as an update for relevant stakeholders.  

Thanks and keep safe,

Q4PR Team

COVID-19 Public Affairs Update

As of this morning there are 3,849 active cases of Covid-19 in Ireland. This represents a 211% increase on the figure contained in last week’s update (1,819). Yesterday saw the single largest increase in daily numbers, with confirmation of 402 new cases. There have been 98 COVID-19 related deaths in Ireland.

Though still worrying, there is some cause for optimism. Covid-19 cases are currently growing at 10% per day - this is a significant reduction on initial daily growth rates of 33%. However the CMO Dr Tony Holohan has warned that the curve needs to flatten further if we are to avoid the country’s health system being overrun.

ICU facilities are set to double to more than 600 beds over the coming weeks. The government has hinted that the stringent measures imposed till 12 April maybe extended as part of this effort. This week the HSE signed off on a framework agreement with the Private Hospitals Association to allow them full access to 19 private hospitals adding an extra 2,500 beds to the acute system and boosting overall capacity by 17%. 

Tighter Restrictions on Movement

On Friday last, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced new restrictions with all members of the public now urged to stay at home until at least 12 April.

Cocooning measures were introduced for all over 70’s and anyone medically vulnerable to COVID-19. The national list of essential services was also revised with new guidance attaching to each of the listed services.

People must now stay at home until 12 April 2020, except for the following situations:

·         to travel to and from work, or for purposes of work, only where the work is an essential health, social care or other essential service and cannot be done from home

·         to shop for essential food, beverage and household goods or collect a meal

·         to attend medical appointments and collect medicines and other health products

·         for vital family reasons, such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people

·         to take brief individual physical exercise within 2 kilometres of home, which may include children from the household, providing adherence to strict 2 metre physical distancing

·         for farming purposes that is food production or care of animals

Economic Fallout

As the country faces into the prospect of extended containment, attention is now turning to the full economic fall-out of Covid-19 with business leaders and economic commentators warning of the ‘scar factors’ impeding the pace of global and national recovery.

On Thursday evening, the Taoiseach set out the parameters for a future government recovery programme and sought to reassure the public that austerity measures were not envisaged. He said the government would instead opt for fiscal easing measures designed to quickly reignite the economy and get it “roaring back to full health”. The strategy has been supported by economic commentators who say the strong underlying condition of the economy prior to the pandemic would allow for this approach and will likely be matched by similar measures by the European Central Bank across the EU.

Central Bank Warning

This morning, the Central Bank of Ireland said Covid-19 had triggered an extremely severe economic shock, fundamentally different from anything the economy has been through before. The Bank is predicting between 450,000 and 500,000 jobs will be lost, most in the next two months and believes the economy here could collapse by 25%.

Its Quarterly Bulletin said the economy could shrink by 8.3% of GDP this year and unemployment could peak at 25% in the coming months. While some of this would be temporary, it says unemployment could be still above 10% at the end of the year and is forecasting a deficit in public finances this year of €19.6 billion, down from an expected surplus of €2.2bn.

This news was echoed by AIB on Friday morning which said the services sector here suffered a significant setback with both activity and new work falling at the fastest rate since April 2009.

The Bank said its Ireland Services Business Activity Index fell from 59.9 in February to 32.5 in March and new business from international markets had dropped more than in any month since the series began in 2002. Chief Economist Oliver Mangan pointed out that domestic and export new orders “imploded” with the weakest contraction in activity in transport/tourism/leisure as the hospitality industry ground to a halt.

On Thursday, the CSO revealed that 513,350 people are now claiming jobless benefits or wage subsidies, which is equivalent to one fifth of the labour force. This was on top of the seasonally adjusted Live Register total of 207,200, which was up 24,400 on the February figure.  A delayed estimate of the unemployment rate, which stood at 4.8% in February, is due to be published next week.

Impact on National Politics

As the global pandemic continues to rage, talks between the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael took place again this week. Both parties are privately saying that progress continues to be made but much work remains before agreement can be reached. Notably, there are reports that the parties have agreed an equal number of Ministerial positions, and that a “rotating Taoiseach” arrangement should form part of the deal. Who occupies the Taoiseach’s office first has yet to be clarified.

Greens and Labour say they will not participate in coalition of major parties

Should Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael reach agreement, the parties will still need to rely on other parties and groupings to secure the requisite 80 seats in the Dáil to form a majority Government. Both the Green Party and the Labour Party reaffirmed their position this week of not joining a coalition involving the two larger parties, though many in Leinster House believe this could possibly change once the FF-FG deal is published.

Focus remains on the so-called Regional Group of nine independent TDs, including their de-facto leader Denis Naughten TD, who is believed to be eager to make a deal.

Dáil meets as Seanad elections take place

Despite some objections that all TDs should stay at home, the Dáil Business Committee agreed to hold a three-hour session yesterday to hear statements on the COVID-19 situation. Labour boycotted the sitting.

Meanwhile, seats began to be filled in the Seanad as counting of votes took place. Fianna Fáil were expected to win more seats than any other party – final results are expected tonight. 

The Seanad will not sit, however, until a new Government is formed. Only when a new Taoiseach is elected by the Dáil can the so-called Taoiseach’s Eleven – nominees in the gift of the head of Government- take their seats, at which point the Upper House is properly constituted. 

Labour prepares for a new era

The Labour Party will know the outcome of its own leadership election later today, which is being contested by Alan Kelly and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

 

 

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