The number of people receiving the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment has fallen to 579,400 - a drop of 5,200 over the last week. 

Of these, 33,400 are receiving their last payment as they are returning to work.  

These figures are on top of the 214,700 people receiving Jobseekers' Benefit at the end of April. 

Today's drop in the number claiming the €350 Covid Payment reflects the beginning of the re-opening of the economy. 

Last week, 44,000 people closed their claim for the payment. 

Of those, about 35,600 reported that they were returning to work. 

However, there will be a time lag in the figures falling as the closure of claims are processed. 

Separately, over 482,800 employees are now having their wages subsidised by the Government under that scheme.  

Some of those who returned to work last week will be having their incomes supported by the state under the TWSS. 

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty forecast that after a few weeks of "plateauing", the take-up of the Covid payment will fall further as the country gradually reopens.

But the minister cautioned that the Government's ongoing response would have to be planned.

She said future decisions will be based on the commitment that everyone who needs help will get the most appropriate assistance and also based on the evidence we receive from the reopening of the economy.

The payment is expected to be discussed at Cabinet later this week.

The payment is being paid to those who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and is currently scheduled to finish on 8 June.

There have been indications that it could be reduced for part-time workers.

A senior Government source said many businesses are having difficulty getting their staff back and they said that needs to be addressed.

The source said some part-time staff members who are getting more income from the payment do not want to come back to work.

The source said there is a view that employees working for sectors that are back open should not to be eligible for the scheme.

Concern has been mounting after a review by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation showed that over 200,000 people were better off on the scheme than they were working.

However, the Government faces a political battle with Opposition parties over any changes to the payment.

Sinn Féin's spokesperson on finance has called on the government to continue the payment for the remainder of the year.

Pearse Doherty said today that workers need certainty, and will need this payment to continue until the end of 2020, to ensure that income can circulate in the domestic economy.

Labour social protection spokesperson Ged Nash has called for answers from the Government on their plans for the payment ahead of a vote on the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection estimates on Thursday.

Mr Nash has called for clarity on if enough money will be provided to the department to keep paying the payment in the weeks ahead.

He said: "Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are prepared to cut the payment for some workers but they haven't told us the full details of their plan.

"It would be wrong for them to cut the basic income of thousands of workers who are out of work through no fault of their own, when large parts of the economy are still shut down."

Meanwhile, Marian Harkin, independent TD for Sligo Leitrim and member of the Regional Independent Group, has said she is hugely concerned about Covid-19 payments.

She said most people do not realise they may have to pay tax on the payments. Ms Harkin said people need to be made aware so they can put money aside every week.

Additional reporting Aisling Kenny