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THE first steps for communities in Dublin to emerge from current Covid-19 restrictions and support businesses to reopen have been announced, a Fine Gael TD, Emer Higgins has said.

Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins said a five-step, phased re-opening of the local economy and society in the coming months is the correct approach to take following the hard work and diligence shown by all in Dublin Mid West

“Ensuring we can begin Phase One on May 18th, as well as continuing to suppress the virus and reduce the spread of infection, must be everyone’s top priority. Together, we can help reduce the number of cases in Dublin Mid West by continuing to follow the health guidelines set out by the HSE.

“This week, we will begin to see some restrictions eased, including extending the exercise distance from your home to 5km and allowing those who are cocooning to take daily exercise, provided they have no contact with other people. However, it is important to note that it is possible for restrictions to be reintroduced if the rate of infection increases once again. This will be constantly monitored by the National Public Health Emergency Team and Government.

“The framework set out by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over the May Bank Holiday weekend aims to keep the rate of infection as low as possible while proportionately balancing continuing restrictions with the positive social and economic benefits brought about by lifting some restrictions,” Deputy Higgins said.

“Physical distancing must continue. There are five phases in the recovery roadmap to ease restrictions but we can only move from one phase to the next if the spread of the virus stays under control. There will be a long-term need for physical distancing, for good hand hygiene, for respiratory hygiene, regular cleaning and for people to stay at home and isolate if they are sick.

“Entering the first phase in a safe and health-led manner has to be our priority. Let’s take it one step at a time.”

Phase One (18th May) measures include:

· 5km travel limit for exercise. Avoid unnecessary journeys. Small groups can meet outdoors.

· Childcare allowed for essential healthcare workers.

· Phased return of outdoor workers, provided physical distancing is adhered to. Remote working continues for all that can do so.

· Open retailers that are mainly outdoor & home-ware, e.g. opticians, motor/bicycle & repair, office products, electrical, IT, phone sales & repair. All subject to physical distancing.

· Open outdoor public amenities, including pitches, tennis courts and golf courses. Tourism sites, beaches and walking routes. Outdoor sporting and fitness activities, in groups max. four people can resume. Physical distancing must be adhered to.

· Social distancing and hygiene measures continue for public and private transport as passengers increase. Specific measures at ports and airports.

Deputy Higgins also said Fine Gael recognises people and businesses in Dublin Mid West have been impacted in an unprecedented and negative manner by the worldwide pandemic.

“A suite of measures have been announced to help local businesses restart, rehire and reopen as soon as possible, provided it is safe to do so. To date, we have introduced emergency income supports, such as the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Our focus now is to help get people back to work and reopen businesses. We will help them as they plan for the future and adapt to the ‘new normal’.”

The new measures for businesses are:

  • A €10,000 restart grant for micro and small businesses based on a rates/waiver rebate from 2019;

  • A three-month commercial rates waiver for impacted businesses;

  • A €2 billion Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund within the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which will make capital available to medium and large enterprises on commercial terms;

  • A €2 billion COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme to support lending to SMEs for terms ranging from 3 months to 6 years, which will be below market interest rates;

  • The ‘warehousing’ of tax liabilities for a period of twelve months after recommencement of trading during which time there will be no debt enforcement action taken by Revenue and no interest charge accruing in respect of the warehoused debt;

  • A commitment to local authorities to make up the rates shortfall, so that local authorities can continue provide full services to the public

“I would like to thank all my Fine Gael colleagues in Government who have worked so diligently. This is an unprecedented time and there is no manual on how best to deal with a crisis of this nature. With the spirit and courage shown by all in Dublin Mid West since this began, I am absolutely confident we can come out of this stronger and more united than ever before.” Deputy Higgins said.

Technology has become more and more important these days and that’s true for politicians too. Local T.D. Emer Higgins has been hosting her public meetings and clinics online, during the lockdown.

“Like so many others I’m working from home most of the time now. There’s a large planning application in Palmerstown been lodged and I knew it was likely to be controversial, so I wanted to make sure that people were aware of it so that they had the opportunity to make a submission. I joined forces with Cllr. Alan Hayes to hold an online public meeting on the issue and was really surprised by how many people logged on. It showed an appetite for information, so I decided, once the five phased plan to re-open Ireland was announced, to host a live questions and answers session on it,” explained Higgins, the Lucan T.D.

“Before I was elected to the Dáil, I worked for a multinational corporation so virtual meetings aren’t new to me, but hosting a questions and answers clinic live on air definitely was. I was amazed, though, at how many people logged in live and how many others watched the recording I posted later that day. It proved a great way of being able to engage with constituents, who are online, and answer their questions in relation to the lifting of restrictions. I’ll definitely be doing more and more online engagements while social distancing continues, but I have to say I am looking forward to getting back in front of people in real life,” concluded Higgins.

Parenting in Covid-19 is tough out. That’s according to local T.D. Emer Higgins who has paid tribute to parents who are double-jobbing and triple-jobbing through the pandemic.

Speaking in the Dáil Chamber Deputy Higgins said, “Parents have had to become technologically able to access the school work online, and intellectually able to teach it. If they’ve teenagers they’re trying to coax them away from their friends on the green, their smart phones or their online games; and encourage them instead in to do their school-work and to exercise. If they’ve kids preparing for the leaving cert, then they’ve had to become their guidance counsellor, leading them through a traditionally stressful time during a unique period of uncertainty. If they’ve toddlers they’ve had to become pre-school teachers, experts at arts and crafts and ways of developing their child’s creativity and imagination in an entertaining way. If they’ve a child with special needs they’re doing their utmost to create a new routine amid chaos. All of this is before they cook, and clean, and in many cases, as is the new trend, bake.”

“And it’ particular challenging for working parents, parents who are struggling to balance all of these new demands with working from home or, if they’re an essential worker, on top of their day job during it’s busiest time. Those parents aren’t double-jobbing; they’re triple-jobbing! If you’re one of those parents, worried you’re not doing as well as other parents seem to be, please, know, you are doing enough. Your best is all you can give and it’s all anyone can expect of you,” said Deputy Emer Higgins.

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Emer Higgins #1

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