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Government approves legislation to support national response to COVID-19

The Government has today (Tuesday 17th March) approved legislation to support the national response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The legislation provides for enhanced income supports for people who are diagnosed with, or required to self-isolate due to, Covid-19, as announced by the Government on 9th March.  It also provides for changes to remove the waiting period for payment of Jobseekers Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance in these circumstances.

As previously acknowledged by the Government, these changes involve a significant Exchequer cost but are necessary to support the public health objective of ensuring people who need to self-isolate do so.

The Bill also provides for certain extra powers, should they be needed if extreme situations were to arise, in relation to gatherings\events and travel where there would be an immediate, exceptional and manifest risk to human life and public health from the spread of COVID-19.

In addition, it provides for further powers, in case they might be needed in relation to COVID-19, where a medical officer believes that a person is a source of infection and that the detention or isolation of a person is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

These are provisions which the Government hopes it won’t have to use, given the powers already in place under the Health Act 1947, but legislation is being introduced to give Government powers in exceptional circumstances in the unlikely event that the need arises.

All measures in the Bill relate only to the exceptional circumstances facing the country due to COVID-19.

Details of the Bill (Health Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2020) are being published this evening.  It is intended to enact the Bill through the Dáil (Thursday 19th) and Seanad (Friday 20th) this week.

The Government welcomes the continued co-operation of other Oireachtas parties at this time of national crisis and will brief them further on the contents of the legislation as soon as it is published.

Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020.