With more than 2 million deaths as of the most recent reports and a ravaged economy, COVID-19 has hit Europe as hard as any other territory in the world. Despite this, the nation of Ireland has consistently and effectively managed both the spread of the virus, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ireland. Through practices of anticipation, periods of adjustment, transparency with its people and acts of initiative; Ireland has maintained one of the lowest COVID-19 excess death rates in the world and an economy steadily on the rebound.
In January 2020, in response to the rising threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland formed National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). Dr. Tony Holohan, the state’s Chief Medical Officer, was the head of this group of 30 the finest medical, health and science professionals.
To assist citizens in supplementing lost income and limit the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ireland, the Irish government introduced a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS). Through the TWSS, workers could receive financial support through their specific employer, as well as apply and receive their Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The TWSS also offered employers and new firms a rate subsidy based per week, that varied depending on the company’s number of employees on the payroll.
On February 29, 2020, COVID-19 struck the Emerald Isle for the first time. A month later, on March 27, 2020, Ireland would enter its first nationwide lockdown– this would last through mid-May.
During the initial surge, in which more than 13,000 citizens were hospitalized, the Irish government reached an agreement with the hospital network. In this agreement, the government would access private hospitals to use their capacity for three months, essentially alleviating the pressure on the public system and opening up more space for patients.
On September 1, 2020, the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) replaced the TWSS. The replacement scheme was an economy-wide enterprise to support eligible businesses in finding eligible employees while focussing primarily on business eligibility. In addition to this, the EWSS also provided a flat rate subsidy to qualifying employers, similar to its predecessor the TWSS. While the TWSS and the EWSS are very similar, the EWSS was a more progressive and long-term solution to limit the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ireland.
Without these forms of financial assistance, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) estimates that the number of employed Irish citizens at risk of poverty would have skyrocketed from 6.7% to as high as 15.1%.
During countrywide lockdowns, the government, with assistance from the NPHET, implemented numerous restrictions. These restrictions included travel restrictions, in which people could not travel for non-essential purposes. The restrictions also included social gatherings, allowing them indoors, with only immediate household members.
To assist the nation’s economic recovery, the government unveiled the Economic Recovery Plan. The plan outlines the commitment of €3 billion to assist both citizens seeking employment and businesses suffering from the lasting impacts of the pandemic. However, the recovery plan’s desired intention is to create as many jobs as possible, with projections to exceed pre-pandemic employment levels by as early as 2024.
Starting on March 23, 2020, the NPHET would use traditional and social media and give citizens daily announcements and briefings on information regarding COVID-19, according to a study published in Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection. During these announcements, the government would also emphasize which restrictions should be emphasized and which if any should be lax.
One of the primary things the Irish government was applauded for, was its transparency regarding the economic effects of COVID-19. While Social Justice Ireland acknowledges the fact that without the government’s assistance “almost four in every 10 of the Irish population would have been living in poverty.” Employees such as Susanne Rogers acknowledge the fact that the fight is not over, especially for the large number of children that are still living in poverty.
Susanne, along with many other experts, feels that this has a serious impact on the children’s education, and the future of Ireland’s economic potential in the long term. To help assist the nation of Ireland and its youth in their continued fight, you can donate to organizations such as the National Youth Council of Ireland, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Barnardos. Each organization has a charitable set up to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on Ireland.
– Austin Hughes