Among the offshoots of the coronavirus outbreak are improved sick pay and losses to tourism interests.

Private sector workers affected by coronavirus are to receive a new higher level of sick pay of €305 a week from their first day of illness, up from €203, under a new €2.4 billion initiative announced by the government.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that existing conditions surrounding sick payments, such as having a specific number of social insurance contributions, would be waived. Payments will also be available to the self-employed.

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He said the existing requirement under which claimants had to wait until the sixth day of their illness to receive sick benefit would not apply, so the payment would come into force straight away.

He said, “The whole objective here is to ensure that workers would not be afraid to follow advice to self-isolate due to economic necessity.”

Irish leader Leo Varadkar issues a statement on the Covid-19 outbreak.

Irish leader Leo Varadkar issues a statement on the Covid-19 outbreak.

Emergency legislation will be introduced in the Dail next week, and the government aims to backdate the new sick pay arrangements to apply from the decision of the Cabinet subcommittee to introduce the new measures.

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To contain the transmission of coronavirus, the personal rate of illness benefit will be increased from €203 per week to €305 per week for a maximum period of two weeks of medically certified self-isolation, or for the duration of a person’s medically certified absence from work due to coronavirus diagnoses.

The new financial package for private-sector workers comes on foot of strong representations to the government from trade unions and employers.

A man wearing a medical mask at Dublin airport.

A man wearing a medical mask at Dublin airport.

The government had already decided last week that state employees would receive special leave with pay if they had to self-isolate in line with Health Service Executive advice and where flexible working arrangements were not possible.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of jobs in tourism are at risk across Ireland as the number of people from overseas booking holidays has dried up to a “trickle” due to the spread of the coronavirus, according to hoteliers and industry representatives.

In a bid to limit losses, some hotels are trying to fill empty rooms and restaurants by offering discounted rates to domestic tourists.

Sean O’Driscoll, chief executive of The iNua Collection, one of the largest regional hotel groups in Ireland, told The Irish Times that a lot of multinational companies had canceled bookings over the past 12 days due to travel bans imposed on their employees. 

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