The economy will "bounce back" sooner than many people think, the Tánaiste has told the Dáil, but he added that the pandemic will leave "many scars" including lost jobs and livelihoods as well as lost lives.
The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said new financial supports will be put in place in the second half of the year for businesses hit hardest by the pandemic.
Leo Varadkar said the Government "will extend in quarter two the vital financial supports in place for businesses including Covid-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), the wage subsidy scheme and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP)."
He added that the Government "will also provide more targeted financial support beyond quarter two for sectors that have been particularly wounded by this pandemic, such as aviation, tourism hospitality the arts and entertainment."
"We will bounce back - possibly sooner and quicker than some people think. But I am not naïve enough to think that things will go back to normal, nor should they, some things will change forever," Mr Varadkar said.
"The pandemic will leave scars - economic and social, lost families and friends, lost jobs and lost livelihoods. Our challenge is to rebuild the economy not to return to the old normal but to build a better new normal when the pandemic is over," he stated.
He also told the Dáil that the pandemic has accelerated many of the deep structural shifts that were already underway in the economy.
The sudden shift online poses serious problems for the retail industry, he said - and the pandemic has widened the digital divide.
"While many workers in well paid jobs moved seamlessly to online jobs, many customer-facing workers in more vulnerable sectors simply couldn't move online. At primary, secondary and third level students from less well-off backgrounds and in rural areas faced similar challenges," he said.
Remote working will be part of the world of work after the pandemic, the Tanaiste predicted.
As part of that, next month the Government will be signing a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect.
Later in the year there will be legislation to give employees the right to request remote working, he said.
Meanwhile, interest rates on mortgages and business loans in this country are higher than elsewhere because of high levels of non-payment, the Tánaiste said today.
Responding to questions from Labour's Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Mr Varadkar said the average interest rates on mortgages and loans in this country, while falling in recent times, is "too high and higher than the EU average."
He said like for like comparisons can be misleading, because other countries have higher bank charges or other costs.
"One of the reasons we have higher interest rates in this country is historically very high levels of non-payment," he said.
"When people don't pay their debts - whether it is individuals or businesses - that has a social consequences. It means it is harder for others to get credit and those who do face higher interest rates," he stated.
He said some TDs "try to ride both horses" by saying it is ok for people not to pay debts while at the same time complaining about high interest rates.