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Image / Editorial

Eviction bans, rent increase freezes, mental health concerns: today’s Covid-19 crisis talks in the Dail

by Jennifer McShane
19th Mar 2020

The Emergency Covid-19 legislation passes all stages in the Dáil

The legislation, called the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill, was passed on Thursday night without a vote. It goes to the Seanad on Friday and will be signed by President Micheal D Higgins into law at the weekend.

A reduced Dáil met today to debate on emergency legislation to give the Government sweeping powers in response to the pandemic.

Among issues raised, Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Dáil Èireann Covid-19 is having an immense impact on society, in what is “unparalleled and extraordinary circumstances.”

Introducing legislation to deal with the public health crisis, he said the government’s primary objective was to safeguard the lives of citizens and to ensure that they had sufficient financial resources.

He said political leaders had a responsibility to respond to the pandemic and an important role in responding to the mental health challenges it posed in terms of the individual and national anxiety which exist in the country.

The primary objective of the bill is to safeguard the lives of citizens and to ensure they have sufficient financial resources, he added.

Ban on evictions

The proposals also include a temporary ban on rent increases for those whose incomes have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with the notice period for tenancies of less than six months is also being increased from 28 to 90 days.

Many on social media agreed the actions were not enough to ease the financial strains of the tens of thousands that have lost their income as a result of the coronavirus, citing a temporary freeze on rent as the action needed.

‘Sunset Clause’

The new laws will allow the State to shut down mass gatherings and to potentially order groups of people in certain areas to stay in their homes.

There are regulations too that would allow for the detention of a person, on foot of a medical recommendation, if they refuse to self-isolate.

The main issue of concern among some TDs related to a time-limited review or “sunset clause” being included in the bill.

Mr Harris accepted the concerns, with the government putting down an amendment to include a sunset clause review on 9 November 2020.

Read more: 8 positive coronavirus stories you need to read today

Read more: Coronavirus Diaries: The 38-year-old with chronic fatigue syndrome who’s in strict self-isolation in Dublin