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Two more deaths take virus fatalities to six

McDonald's and other fast- food outlets forced to close

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Sinead Cleary and Shawna Byrne people 
enjoy some food at Dublin Airport
McDonald’s before the outlet closed

Sinead Cleary and Shawna Byrne people enjoy some food at Dublin Airport McDonald’s before the outlet closed

Sinead Cleary and Shawna Byrne people enjoy some food at Dublin Airport McDonald’s before the outlet closed

Two more people have died from the coronavirus and 219 new cases of the virus have been confirmed, bringing the total number of infections to 1,012, of which 471 are in Dublin.

The latest Covid-19 victims are both male and from the east of the country

So far, six people have died here from the virus and there are now 37 clusters of cases.

This is a pivotal week as the daily toll of new cases is expected to escalate, putting hospitals under growing pressure.

Already one of the country's biggest geriatric rehabilitation hospitals is battling to deal with eight confirmed and suspected cases of coronavirus.

Nightmare

The hospital complex, located in the south, now threatens health chiefs with what a doctor described as "one of the nightmare scenarios we had hoped to avoid".

Public health officials have effectively placed the complex in lockdown. All visitors have been banned - with exceptions only in extreme circumstances.

It's understood that at least four of the patients have tested positive for the coronavirus, while results are awaited on another four.

A number of those confirmed to have the virus are described as extremely vulnerable.

A further problem for health chiefs is that the 90-bed complex effectively acts as a rehab and step-down facility for a number of acute hospitals in the region. As yet, the precise source of the Covid-19 infection is undetermined. Experience in the US, Spain and Italy has shown that the spread of Covid-19 to such geriatric-focused facilities can have tragic consequences.

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Practicing social distancing
in the Phoenix Park yesterday

Practicing social distancing in the Phoenix Park yesterday

Colin Keegan

Practicing social distancing in the Phoenix Park yesterday

Separately, more than 30 gardai - including senior management from a garda division - are self-isolating after their colleague tested positive for the.

The mid-ranking officer is suspected of contracting the virus while abroad before returning to work. He later attended a Covid-19 meeting with senior colleagues before he was diagnosed.

That meeting was attended by officers from across a number of stations including the highest ranking garda in the division.

Sources said that, as a result, at least five inspectors and a chief superintendent as well as 26 gardai and sergeants are self-isolating as a precautionary measure.

It's understood there has been no direct impact on day-to-day policing in the area which is located in the Eastern Region.

The news comes as thousands of workers are set to receive a major increase in the €203-a-week emergency coronavirus payment as part of a new income support package during the pandemic.

Sources said the Government was about to announce a "substantial" hike in the Covid-19 social protection payment and is considering a subsidy for employers to keep staff on their payroll. They said details of the package were still under discussion yesterday.

One of the options being examined was subsidising wages by up to 80pc.

Employees who face being laid off or have already been lost their job will benefit from the support expected to be signed off by the Cabinet today. The Government is also set to speed up the payment of rent supplement to people whose incomes have been hit.

However, it is ruling out an amnesty for those who could end up in arrears when the crisis is over.

Ministers believe the means-tested payment for certain people living in private rented accommodation who cannot afford the full cost of their rent can be expedited for the thousands of workers who have been made unemployed in recent days, along with "beefing up" other welfare support.

A senior Government source said rent waivers were not on the table, but that everything was being kept under review as the crisis unfolded.

"Rent supplement should do the job," they said.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy will bring emergency legislation before the Dail this week to introduce a moratorium on rent increases and evictions during the crisis.

Meanwhile, fast-food chains and restaurants are closing due to the pandemic.

Concerns over how to ensure people are social distancing - a key measure to reduce the death rate of the virus - have been central to the decisions taken in recent days. Multinational fast-food chain McDonald's closed its doors yesterday at 7pm across Ireland and Britain. It has 95 outlets here.

Safety

McDonald's UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy said it had become clear "maintaining social distance whilst operating busy takeaway and drive-through restaurants is increasingly difficult".

Subway followed suit, announcing it would close all its outlets at 5pm yesterday.

Supermac's is to close its restaurants by Thursday at 7pm.

Krispy Kreme said it was closing its outlet in Blanchardstown, saying the safety of staff was its number one priority. Starbucks and Costa Coffee are also closing their Irish outlets.