Varadkar crisis: ‘Jaw-dropping’ coronavirus predictions spark panic – leaked memo

A leaked memo from the Taoiseach suggested his caretaker government was preparing to extending emergency measures such as a rent freeze and evictions ban. But it also warned officials were also planning to assess how special welfare payments can be tapered off in the coming months.

I am keen to discuss options for the medium-term, including how we revitalise the EU economy

Leo Varadkar

The memo, the tone of which was described as “jaw-dropping” by sources, predicted the “relatively unified spirit” shown in Ireland during the “swift and unprecedented” initial stages of the crisis could soon change as the reality of the situation sank in.

It spelled out the long-term implications of the pandemic and the emergency measures Mr Varadkar’s adminstration took on response.

It warned: “This includes unemployment, reduced income, increased debt, closure of businesses, reduced educational opportunities, restrictions on movement and social interactions, and ultimately the loss of loved ones.”

The leaked memo also outlined challenges faced by ministers who might have to leave some sections of the economy closed while opening others, reducing benefits across the board and tightening entry procedures for foreigners.

Mr Varadkar will later urge fellow European Union leaders to consider mutual sharing of the debt member states are incurring as they battle COVID-19.

The Taoiseach is taking part in a European Council meeting on the pandemic – the video conference is the fourth occasion EU leaders have convened to discuss the crisis.

Earlier this month, the Eurogroup of European Finance Ministers announced a £473bn package of support for member states but it stopped short of a move to share the debt burden.

Some members want to see mutualised debt in the form of so-called coronabonds, with all EU nations involving in paying them off.

At the meeting, Mr Varadkar will call for a much stronger response from the EU to the economic impact and will urge significantly more financial assistance for member states.

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He will suggest such measures could involve some form of mutual sharing of debt across the EU designed specifically to deal with the impact of COVID-19.

He said: “As well as discussing the immediate impact of Covid-19 on health and human life on all our countries, I am keen to discuss options for the medium-term, including how we revitalise the EU economy, and ensure that the EU is better equipped to deal with emergencies like this in the future.”

The EU leaders are also set to discuss the possibility of a shared approach to the phased lifting of coronavirus restriction measures, when it is the appropriate time to do so.

Ireland’s coronavirus death toll stands at 769 and the total number of cases 16,671.

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