Tánaiste Simon Coveney has made a stark warning that the ’’invisible enemy’’, coronavirus, is "just beginning" its spread throughout the country.
The grim prediction came as the outgoing Seanad debated and passed emergency laws to give effect to a €3.7bn wage and welfare package, protections for tenants and the hiring of medical and army staff.
Senators raised concerns about the lack of protective equipment for frontline health workers and the inability to police ’’social distancing’’ on building sites.
Sinn Fáin’’s Máire Devine also lashed out at US president, Donald Trump, after he suggested that the decades-old malaria drug chloroquine be used on coronavirus patients.
She said there is a need for accurate information "unlike that idiot across the Atlantic whose gung-ho attitude is promoting lethal medicine as a cure".
Ms Devine added: "A witch doctor is the last thing health science needs.”
But it was the warning from Mr Coveney which stood out from the day’’s proceedings: “In truth, we know we must brace ourselves for much worse to come. This is not nearly over.
"As was outlined by the Chief Medical Officer, this invisible enemy is just beginning its spread through our country and people.
"We know from the experience of other countries and the mathematical predictions available that a great deal is still to come.”
With votes or amendments forced by Opposition senators, many praised frontline health and retailer workers. The house also applauded them
Outgoing senator and former minister, Kevin Humphreys, said: “I hope at the end of this, we realise they are the real risk-takers.”
But with the 25th Seanad now dissolved and doubt existing about the full formation of the next Upper House without a new government to appoint 11 of its 60 members, the parliament can no longer pass emergency laws.
This was confirmed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week. Counting to elect 49 members of the 26th Seanad will begin on Monday.