475,000 people are set to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment this week, an increase of 3% on last week's total. 

This week's payments of €142.8 million will bring to €5.5 billion the amount the government has disbursed since the PUP scheme went live last March. 

6,749 people closed their PUP claims over the past 7 days in order to return to work. 

The 475,364 people receiving the PUP this week represent an increase of 15,443 on the 45,9921 eligible for the benefit a week ago. 

However, this figure does not include the 189,860 people recorded on the Live Register at the end of December.

When PUP recipients and those on the Live Register are combined, over 665,000 people are entirely dependent on the state for income support. 

While the number of PUP recipients has been rising inexorably since the current lockdown was imposed, it is still far short of last May's peak when around 600,000 people were receiving the payment. 

On a geographical basis, the highest numbers of claims this week are in Dublin (147,191) followed by Cork (48,731) Galway (25,130)  and Kildare (21,063). 

The sectors with the highest number of people receiving PUP remain Accommodation and Food Service activities (111,569), Wholesale and Retail Trade (75,861) and Construction (61,159). 

Construction accounted for the largest increase in this week's PUP claims, with an additional 4,942 people receiving it.

Meanwhile 9,718 will receive the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit payment,  with claims increasing in every economic sector, and every county except Waterford. 

However, the fall in Covid Illness Benefit claims in Waterford was almost negligible at just six fewer than a week ago - a reduction from 4,185  to 4,179. 
The Department of Social Protection confirmed that since last March, 120,892 people aged under 66 have been medically certified to receive the E350 per week payment. 

The counties with the highest numbers of cumulative claims since the onset of the pandemic are Dublin (33,076),  followed by Cork (13,060), Galway (7,120) and Kildare (5,307).

The number medically certified to receive the EIB rose in every sector, with the highest number of claims in Wholesale and Retail, (26,228), Human Health and Social Work Activities (20,932), and Manufacturing (16,248).

The Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphrey urged people to avail of this support, saying: " A person who has been diagnosed or has been told to self-isolate and who chooses to go into work may infect others and are placing the lives of their colleagues at risk."