Every day there is some good news with the declining number of new cases, but it is tempered by sadness and grief at the loss of more lives. Although the numbers are small, every single one is heartbreaking, and our condolences go to all of the families and friends affected. While we may be adjusting our lives to a new normal, we will never get used to the deaths caused by Covid-19, and we continue to mourn their loss and reaffirm our desire to do everything we can to honour their memory.
As of last night, 1,659 people have died in our State from Covid-19 and a further 534 in Northern Ireland. In total, 25,111 people in the Republic of Ireland have been diagnosed with the disease. In total, almost 350,000 tests have been carried out, with more than 22,000 in the past week, of which 389 were positive, resulting in a positivity rate of 1.7%. This rate continues to decline. Given these numbers, we can see we are making real and measurable progress. When I spoke in the Dáil last week, we had 73 new cases recorded the night before. There were 47 last night. We had 268 people in hospital this time last week with Covid. This is now down to 165. We had 48 people in ICU and this is now down to 36. Whereas 17 new deaths were reported last Wednesday night, it was three last night.
We are nearing the end of phase 1 of our plan to reopen business and society. The Cabinet will meet tomorrow morning to decide whether it is safe to move to phase 2, and this decision will be made on the basis of the available medical data and the expert advice from NPHET alongside reports from key Departments, including the Department of Health and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. As I have always said, we need to be confident it is safe before making that move. I am concerned that this week many people were calling for us to accelerate things and jump ahead before we even had the data from recent days, the data that will tell us the impact that the phase 1 lifting of restrictions had on the spread of the disease.
I believe it is better to adopt the slow and steady approach than to go too far too fast and risk falling backwards. Our plan to reopen the country can be accelerated but only if it is safe to do so. Given the trend of the numbers I am confident that we will be able to proceed to phase two on Monday. If Cabinet approves this move tomorrow it will mean a further lifting of restrictions on Monday. The economy will continue to reopen. More people will go back to work and we will see more businesses resume trading, particularly in the retail sector. More outdoor sporting and fitness activities will be allowed, including team sports training in small groups, as long as social distancing can be maintained and there is no physical contact. We will also be able to meet in small groups indoors as well as outdoors, travel up to 20 km from home for exercise, and people who work alone or can effectively social distance will be allowed to return to their workplaces more frequently.
I hope that as the world returns to a new normality we will see international air travel resume, in the first instance through air bridges with countries that have suppressed the virus to an extent similar to ours. With air bridges we can lift travel requirements if people are flying to or from another country where the virus has been successfully suppressed. This, however, is some weeks away and it is far too soon for anyone to book their holidays but summer is not yet lost.
Amárach, déanfaidh an Rialtas cinneadh maidir le dul ar aghaidh go céim 2 dár bplean chun Éire a athoscailt. Beidh an cinneadh seo bunaithe ar chomhairle leighis na saineolaithe go bhfuil sé slán sábháilte. Ní thógfaimid aon riosca má tá baol ann. Impímid ar an bpobal aon riosca nach bhfuil gá leis a sheachaint. Ó seo amach, tá súil agam go gcuirfimid go mór leis an dlúthpháirtíocht a chonaiceamar le linn na míonna seo caite agus go n-oibreoimid le chéile chun Éire níos fearr a bhaint amach. Ní mór dúinn infreastruchtúr shláinte phoiblí agus folláine a thógáil, athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar conas a sholáthraímid cúram do dhaoine aosta, an cur chuige atá againn maidir le tinneas san ionad oibre a athrú, cothromaíocht idir an saol agus an obair a ghlacadh, taisteal nach bhfuil gá leis a laghdú, agus meas dár dtimpeallacht nádúrtha a chothú.
Last week, I said I would provide an update on the new proposals from the European Commission. The post-2020 multi-annual financial framework will total €1.85 trillion over seven years and will include a completely new €750 billion allocation for what is being called next generation EU. These euro will be used to protect lives and livelihoods, repair the Single Market and build a lasting recovery across Europe. It will be funded through one-off Commission borrowing on the financial markets as an exceptional response to the unprecedented circumstances we now face. I welcome the broad thrust of last week's proposals and will work with colleagues in the European Council to reach early agreement on a substantial front-loaded recovery instrument. This will reinforce the three safety nets of up to €540 billion for citizens, businesses and countries that we have already agreed. Every EU member state has been affected by this emergency, some more so than others. We need to kick-start economic and social recovery and get funds flowing to sectors and regions that need them most. To overcome the new challenges arising from Covid-19 the EU budget must also deal with issues which were vital to Ireland before the crisis including CAP, cohesion, research and innovation. I believe we must use this opportunity to set Europe on the right path for the future building a greener, fairer, more resilient, digital and sustainable Union. In doing so we must be honest with the Irish people. We are now net contributors to the EU budget. A bigger EU budget means we pay in more as well as getting more out. However, the value of our membership is incalculable in terms of security access to Single Market, European citizenship and the cost-sharing gains from joint projects and joint programmes. It is money well spent.
In recent days the world has watched in horror the events following the killing of George Floyd. It has prompted a palpable outpouring of emotion and spontaneous expressions of solidarity against the poison of racism. We have also seen genuine revulsion at the heavy-handed response in some instances towards peaceful protesters and journalists.
We have witnessed the absence of moral leadership or of words of understanding, comfort or healing from whence they should have come. It is right to be angered by injustice. Racism too is a virus, transmitted at an early age, perpetuated by prejudice, sustained by systems, often unrecognised by those whom it infects, possible to counteract and correct for, but never easy to cure.
The Ireland I grew up in is a very different place to the one we live in today. In recent decades, we have been enriched by racial diversity, people of colour who came here and more born here. I believe we are fortunate to have a policing model that is based on consent, strict gun control and an unarmed and highly professional police service of which we can be proud, namely, An Garda Síochána. However, we do not need to look across the Atlantic to find racism. We have many examples in our own country. Discrimination on the basis of skin colour is pernicious. Sometimes it is overt: discrimination when it comes to getting a job or a promotion, or being treated less favourably by public authorities, including sometimes by Government officials. Sometimes it manifests itself in the form of hate speech online, bullying in school, name calling in the streets or even in acts of violence. Sometimes it is almost innocent and unknowing and all the more insidious - little things, small but nonetheless othering such as being asked where one comes from originally because one's skin or surname look out of place, how often one goes back to the country one's mother or father was born in, being spoken to more slowly, cultural and character assumptions being made based on one's appearance or being made to feel just that little bit less Irish than everyone else. Sadly, this is the lived experience for many young people of colour growing up in Ireland today.
We have come together as a country in this fight against Covid-19, so let us use that sense of solidarity and community that has been so present in recent weeks to take on racism in our country too and change the experiences of young people of colour in Ireland for the better. We can learn from the mistakes of other countries and make sure we do not follow their path or be subject to their fate.
As Deputies will be aware, the pandemic unemployment payment expires on 8 June. A Government decision on its future will be made tomorrow morning, but I want to give these three assurances to everyone in receipt of the payment today. First, it will be extended for months and not weeks. Second, nobody who was working full-time before the pandemic will see his or her unemployment payment cut. It will stay at €350 per week for those who were working full-time prior to the pandemic hitting. Third, some people who were working part-time will see their payments reduced but their weekly payments will still be more than they were earning on a weekly basis before the pandemic.