Taoiseach: Over half the population could be infected with Covid-19; 

Taoiseach: Over half the population could be infected with Covid-19; 
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and Health Minister Simon Harris meet staff at the Health Protection Surveillance centre in Dublin ahead of a cabinet meeting on coronavirus. Pic: Aine McMahon`/PA Wire

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has warned that more than half of the population in the Republic of Ireland could contract Covid-19, as the government unveiled a 430 million euro financial aid package to tackle the health crisis.

It comes as the government cancelled all St Patrick's Day parades, including Dublin, across the country.

On Monday, two more cases of Covid-19 in the Republic were confirmed, bringing the total number to 21.

At a press briefing in Dublin on Monday on the spread of Covid-19, Mr Varadkar said: "What we have seen from other countries and what we have seen from what is available at the moment, is that we could we could easily have 50 or 60% of our population contracting Covid-19.

"For the vast majority of the population this will be a mild illness and may even by asymptomatic. However, there will be a significant part of the population who will require critical care."

He added: "A percentage that we don't honestly know yet - it could be one per cent or three per cent - mortality.

"We just don't know that with any degree of certainty. It is not the kind of thing we have seen in a very long time."

Mr Varadkar said he thinks the Irish health system "will cope as best as possible", but would struggle if the virus were to spread rapidly.

Headded: "This won't be an ordinary situation If you consider the numbers of people who could become very ill.. even if the health service was twice the size it is now we will struggle."

He said 430 million euro will be allocated to provide additional staff and capacity in the health service to deal with the virus.

He said: "Money that would have been set aside for a hard Brexit is being put aside for Covid-19."

Mr Varadkar said "conditionality will be waived" when it comes to people seeking sick pay if they have Covid-19.

"The whole objective here is that people who have symptoms and are told to stay at home will come forward and not fear doing so for economic reasons," he added.

He said the Irish government has a plan in place if Covid-19 becomes a pandemic.

He said: "We have a pandemic plan but it needs to be updated and we will most likely have an updated plan by Friday.

"Bear in mind, we are already a few weeks behind the UK in terms of the spread of the virus."

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