Coronavirus 'not going to be like anything we have experienced in our living memory' warns Taoiseach

Conor Ganly


Conor Ganly

coronavirus covid-19

Leo Varadkar briefs journalists on the Covid-19

Up to 2.8 million Irish people could contract the coronavirus Covid-19 and the worst scenario could see more than 163,000 people die from the disease, according to figures provided by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Speaking after a meeting of Covid-19 cabinet sub-committee, Mr Varadkar said the between 50% and 60% of Ireland's 4.8 million population could contract the virus.

For the vast majority, he said this would be a mild illness, but others would require critical care. While he said "we just don't know" what the mortality rate could be, he expects many deaths. Mr Varadker, who is a medical doctor, said it could be less than 1% and in the worst possible scenario, 3 to 3.4%.

"When you are talking about 1,2,3% of half the population those are very big figures. Not the type of thing we have seen in a very long time. We will have to cope as best as possible but this won't be an ordinary situation. If you consider the numbers of people who could become very ill, even if our health service was twice the size of what it is now we would struggle," he said.

Based on these rates, up to 163,000 people would die from the virus.

"If the worst predictions come true and come to be the case and a vaccine and treatment is not developed, then obviously the situation is not going to be like anything we have experienced in our living memory," he said.

The Taoiseach said total Government Package to deal with coronavirus is around €3 billion. This could come from the budget surplus, the rainy day fund, the NAMA fund and borrowing may be required too. He said the HSE is getting €430 million contingency for the rest of 2020.

He said flight bans need to be considered at a European level.

The Government is to introduce emergency legislation to change sick pay rules which will see Illness Benefit rise from €203 per week to €305.