DUBLIN/BELFAST (Reuters) - Irish authorities said on Thursday they had received 58,000 applications for a new emergency welfare payment for employees and self-employed people who have lost their jobs or had hours cut due to coronavirus.
And asked during a news conference if as many as 400,000 people could become unemployed as a result of the crisis, Ireland’s social protection minister Regina Doherty said: “it could be potentially as drastic (as that)”.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has estimated that 100,000 people or more - almost 5% of the workforce - could lose their jobs by the end of March. His government has called on any shuttered business that can keep paying their staff to do so and that they would later be compensated by the state.
Varadkar has said Ireland could have 15,000 cases of coronavirus within two weeks and the number rose to 557 from 366 a day ago, the highest daily increase so far. A third patient died on Thursday.
The number of cases across the open border in Northern Ireland rose to 77 from 68. The British-run region also reported its first death on Thursday, an elderly patient who had an underlying medical condition.
“The scale of the surge coming towards us is of biblical proportions,” Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann told a news conference.
“In our modelling for worst-case scenario - and I’m not being alarmist here folks, I’m being factual - at an 80% infection rate and 1% mortality, we could be talking in the region of 9,000 deaths,” Swann said.
Ireland also agreed on Thursday to make it illegal for any tenant to be evicted or for landlords to increase their rent during “the period of the emergency,” Irish Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said.
Editing by Alex Richardson and Alexander Smith