The Dáil has heard that up to 600 construction workers could die from Covid-19 if stronger safety measures are not put in place.
TDs reconvened yesterday to enact new emergency housing and health measures.
A number of TDs raised the issue of construction staff continuing to work as normal, despite the inability to adhere to social distancing and hygiene measures.
Rise TD Paul Murphy told the chamber that — with a coronavirus mortality rate of 0.6% — if 50% of Ireland’s 200,000 construction workers become ill, 600 could die.
Mr Murphy, along with his colleagues in People Before Profit, Sinn Féin, and Labour, called for construction sites to close if they could not implement appropriate measures to ensure the safety of their staff.
Many TDs read aloud messages from constituents who work on sites with thousands of others, saying they had been “thrown under the bus”, echoing the same message from unions.
The concerns were flagged during the debate over temporary bans on rent freezes and evictions.
Damien English, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, who filled in for self-isolating Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, said that landlords and tenants are free to enter into informal agreements for rent decreases.
The controversial law — not least because of Fine Gael’s stark opposition to such a rent freeze two months ago — saw a number of amendments tabled.
In a historic move, TDs voted by oral roll call on proposals in an effort to adhere to social distancing measures.
A People Before Profit proposal to extend the eviction ban and rent freeze from three months to 12 was defeated after four Independents (Cathal Berry, Noel Grealish, Mattie McGrath, and Richard O’Donoghue) voted with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael against it.
An amendment passed which will extend the ban on evictions for approved housing body and local authority tenants as well as Travellers during the emergency period.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris also told the Dáil he would revise abortion guidelines so women seeking a termination can consult with their doctor remotely during the Covid-19 emergency.
The Dáil also heard a bill will remove legal barriers for those wishing to return to the health service in the fight against coronavirus, and speed up the process, allowing for simpler re-registration and waiving any fees.