The Tánaiste has indicated that the Government would review the plan to further reduce the Pandemic Unemployment Payment in January if the country is still in the teeth of the pandemic.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Leo Varadkar said the moving of Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan to Level 4 was a bitter blow to people there but most know it had to be done.
He said behaviours have to change in every county because the virus is circulating everywhere.
Mr Varadkar said the Covid Restriction Subsidy Scheme will kick in next week and counties moved to Level 4 will be given priority.
He acknowledged that some people on the PUP will see a big reduction in their incomes, but said the scheme has to be affordable.
Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty told the Dáil that there is a glimmer of hope with the slight fall in Covid-19 cases in Donegal.
He said the country can get through this period but only if the support is there to help people do it.
He said some people feel isolated and the Government needs to offer further guidance on what compassionate grounds mean in relation to home visits.
The Donegal TD said job losses are inevitable as a result of the restrictions and it is crucial workers have certainty.
Mr Varadkar also defended the Covid-19 testing and tracing system after it was criticised by Independent TD Verona Murphy as having failed miserably.
Ms Murphy said the virus has spiralled out of control because the Government failed to put a contact tracing system in place when the numbers of cases were low.
In response, the Tánaiste said he understood the need to blame someone, but her argument did not “stack up” and cited the example of Denmark, which, he said, has three times more testing than Ireland but is currently also experiencing a second wave of the virus.
Mr Varadkar paid tribute to the people working in the testing and tracing system.
“We talk a lot about our hospitals being overwhelmed, thankfully so far they are not … but the people who are really overwhelmed at the moment are the wonderful people who are working in our laboratories who are processing 15,000 tests a day,” he said.
He said it is very tough for the contact tracers who are contacting 1,000 people’s contacts every day.
Deputy Murphy told the Dáil of a GAA player in her constituency, who she said had to wait six days for a test after being confirmed as a contact of someone who tested positive.
The Tánaiste said he is assured by the Health Service Executive that the median turnaround is around two days.
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