The Government is engaging with the banking sector to ensure borrowers who need loan repayment breaks as a result of the further increase in Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions get them.

Speaking this evening the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, said the Government wants to ensure that banks "provide additional payment breaks to mortgage holders and people who have loans, who cannot afford to meet those payments as a result of the Covid crisis."

Mr Varadkar said the feedback from the banks so far had been positive.

However, he added that the breaks on offer will not be on a blanket basis like it was last year.

But he said for those borrowers that can't pay as a result of being closed the Government would be saying to banks that they should look at those cases very favorably.

Last Spring, during the first Covid-19 surge, the main retail banks agreed to put in place a coordinated system of repayment breaks for personal and business customers who were experiencing financial difficulties due to the pandemic.

By the end of November, breaks had been approved on 151,000 accounts, with more than 74,000 of those for mortgage on private dwellings.

36,000 were for consumer credit accounts and 33,000 for small business loan accounts. 

About 94% or 142,000 of the payment breaks had expired by the end of November.

The blanket system expired at the end of September, although since then the European Banking Authority has again opened the door for the possibility of an additional blanket scheme on a national basis.

However, the financial services industry here has stuck to its position, backed up by the Government and Central Bank, that borrowers still experiencing financial problems due to the pandemic will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis into the future.

They have repeatedly said that where appropriate payment breaks will continue to be on offer to some customers, but that other tools will also be used to assist borrowers.

Tonight the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) said the banks are monitoring the situation closely and are prioritising those customers most impacted by the pandemic.

"We very much appreciate this is a difficult time for those facing financial challenges," said CEO Brian Hayes.

"Payment breaks will continue to form part of the range of solutions available to customers. These solutions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and with all the information on the table, an approach that will help lenders to find the best solution for customers who are experiencing financial difficulties."