Irish pandemic jobless money recipients grow as lockdown bites

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A woman wearing a protective face mask takes a photo of the empty city centre shopping street after the government imposed the highest level of restrictions amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Galway, Ireland

The number of people in Ireland claiming temporary coronavirus-related jobless benefits has jumped sharply as infection levels exceed those seen than during the first wave in April and May.

Some 335,600 people will receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment this week, data showed on Tuesday. The number receiving the payment in the week before Christmas was 277,700.

“It has been a really difficult Christmas period for people who lost their employment due to the move to Level 5 restrictions,” Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said.

“As anticipated we have seen a significant increase in the number of people in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment since 22nd December.”

The Irish government said on Dec. 30 it would maintain the payment at the current rate at least until the end of March after announcing the closure of non-essential retail to help curb the surge in infections.

Ireland has gone from having the lowest infection rate in the European Union just three weeks ago to having the fastest rate of deterioration after shops and large parts of the hospitality sector were allowed to reopen for most of December.

Another 200,000 people were claiming regular unemployment benefits at the end of November, meaning around 20% of the Irish labour force are either temporarily or more permanently out of work.

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