Another eight people with Covid-19 have died in the State, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the disease to 1,703, according to figures released on Thursday evening by the Department of Health.
Another eight cases have also been confirmed, meaning that a total of 25,238 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 since the pandemic arrived here, the department said.
The figures came as the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) met to review progress in the pandemic, and to review the World Health Organisation’s updated advice on face coverings.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil the Government would launch a new public information campaign about the use of face masks but he warned again that “it is not a magic shield”.
He also said that social distancing of 1 metre rather than 2 metres is “much less of a risk than it was a few weeks ago when the virus was circulating in the community to a much greater extent than it is now” and the Government hoped to make a decision on that matter next week.
Earlier on Thursday, a WHO special envoy said face coverings should be mandatory on public transport and were a “proper part” of the overall strategy to fight Covid-19.
Dr David Nabarro told an Oireachtas committee his personal view was that regular face coverings should ideally have multiple layers but there was no need for special material or cloth.
“What is really important is not so much how the mask is made but how it’s worn and making sure there are not gaps and then making sure that people don’t believe that the mask is working if they’ve got it under their noses. That is really unhelpful.”
Meanwhile, the Government confirmed Revenue had made changes to the temporary wage subsidy scheme (TWSS) so that it now included women returning from maternity leave.
Last month, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) raised concerns that the scheme discriminated against women who were on maternity benefit, while the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission warned the exclusion of these women could be in breach of European law.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Liz Canavan, assistant secretary general of the Department of An Taoiseach, said that the changes to include these women had now been made, making them eligible for the scheme.
“Revenue has also confirmed that the changes in place of the wage subsidy scheme are now in place to accommodate employees who have returned or are due to return to work following a period of maternity leave, adopted leave or related unpaid leave,” Ms Canavan said.
“These changes also apply to employees who were not on their employer’s payroll on the 29th of February, who were on a period of paternity, parental or related unpaid leave, or in receipt of health and safety benefit, parents benefit or illness benefit.”
Employers who wish to access this scheme on behalf of employees covered by these changes can do so by completing a short online form, available for download via Revenue’s online service, Ms Canavan added.
Employers of workers who have been in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) may also be eligible for the TWSS, if the employee has been rehired.
“The employee needs to cease their PUP payment claim and the employer can provide relevant information to Revenue,” she said.
Over 60,000 employers are registered with Revenue for the temporary wage subsidy scheme, and more than 527,300 employees have now received at least one payment under the scheme.
However, that figure does not include additional employees who may receive a subsidy as a result of payments generated on Thursday, on which Revenue generated further payments to employers of €26 million.
These payments will be in the bank accounts of “the majority” of the respective employers tomorrow.
The value of payments made to employers under the scheme now stands at €1.48 billion, Ms Canavan said.