By Claire Gordon • 19 January 2022 • 19:01
Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash
Ireland has announced a four-day St Patrick’s Day weekend as a thank you to the country for the sacrifices made during the Covid pandemic. A new public holiday will take place this year on March 18, the day after St Patrick’s Day, meaning that it creates a long weekend and workers will be off from Thursday until Sunday.
They are going to keep the new holiday but in future years it will move to St Brigid’s Day, February 1. Ministers have also signed off on a tax-free £800 bonus that will be paid to frontline healthcare workers to thank them for their service. The money will be paid to all workers, ambulance staff, student nurses and Defence Forces members who were drafted in to assist with the vaccination roll-out, as reported by The Daily Mail.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said: “A long two years since this pandemic began, 9,000 lives have been lost to Covid on the island of Ireland, and millions of lives have been interrupted.
“Today the Government decided on three actions to remember those who lost their lives to Covid and to recognise all workers, volunteers and members of the general public, who helped us in this fight against the pandemic and especially frontline healthcare workers.
“Those who wore masks and gowns, who were exposed to Covid patients and Covid samples in the course of their work every day, even before there were any vaccines.”
Ireland entered its first Covid lockdown on March 12, 2020, just days before St Patrick’s Day celebrations were due to take place. Since then, like in many other areas, there have been waves of infections and different restrictions have been applied and removed. However, along with the English government, Irish ministers have been voicing hope in recent weeks that curbs could be lessened once more before St Patrick’s Day as the virus rapidly fades with hospital admissions below previous peaks.
Public expenditure minister Michael McGrath said healthcare workers are owed “a national debt of gratitude”.
He said: “When this cruel virus prevented family members from being with loved ones, it was our healthcare staff who held their hands and often comforted them in their final hours of their lives.
“We owe them a national debt of gratitude.
“While no monetary amount could truly reflect the dedication of healthcare staff on the frontline, the Government believes it is appropriate at this time that a once-off tax-free payment of 1,000 euros will be provided for all eligible public service healthcare and ambulance workers in recognition of their efforts.
“A pro-rata arrangement will apply for part-time staff.”
Mr McGrath said those working in private nursing homes and hospices “will also receive tax relief recognition payment”.
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