Dáil passes emergency Covid-19 legislation

The Dáil has passed emergency legislation aimed at tackling the spread of Covid-19 in a one-day session in the chamber yesterday, Thursday, March 19.

The legislation – the full title of which is ‘The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020 – was passed at around 9:30pm last night.

The scheduled time for the Dáil to adjourn yesterday was about 6:00pm. However, the debate (which saw only about 20 TDs in the chamber at any one time in order adhere to social distancing advice) ran over time as some TDs were concerned about the wide-ranging (albeit temporary) powers the bill gives the Government.

With the bill passed in the Dáil, it will now come before the Seanad for debate today, after which it is expected to be passed there as well. If it is, it will be then signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins.

Among the many purposes of the legislation, one of its primary functions is to give effect to the Government’s proposed changes to social welfare payments.

The Government has introduced a number of changes to the social welfare system to assist people – including the self-employed and farmers – who are not working because they need to self-isolate or they have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed to AgriLand that farmers are eligible to apply for these payments, provided they meet the necessary criteria for the individual scheme/payment.

Among these changes is a higher rate of Illness Benefit, which can be paid if a person is told to self-isolate by a doctor and has been diagnosed with Covid-19.

In this case, the individual concerned can receive €305 per week, as opposed to the normal rate of Illness Benefit of €203 per week.

This higher rate will be paid for a maximum of two weeks where a person is self-isolating – but will also be paid for the duration of a person’s absence from work if they have been diagnosed with Covid-19.