The number of people claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment has fallen to just under 210,000 - down 64% on the peak in May, when almost 600,000 were dependent on the payment for income support.

Last week, 219,900 people were claiming the PUP, but in the past seven days, 9,959 people have closed their claims, bringing the figure of current claimants to 209,941.

The PUP figures do not include the 225,844 people currently on the Live Register and receiving Jobseekers' payments.

This is the last week during which PUP recipients will receive the top rate of €350 per week.

From 17 September, that €350 rate will fall to €300 for those who were earning over €300 per week gross prior to the pandemic.

A new middle rate of €250 will apply for those earning between €200 and €300 gross per week pre-coronavirus.

The lower rate of €203, for those who were earning less than €200 gross before Covid-19, remains unchanged.

The sectors with the largest number of employees quitting the PUP to return to work this week were accommodation and food services (1,304), followed by education (1,091) and wholesale/retail/repair of motor vehicles (892).

The Department of Social Protection also confirmed that to date, 60,977 people aged under 66 have been medically certified to receive the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit of €350 per week.

Since the beginning of September, approximately 80 people have been certified as having coronavirus, while a further 1,720 are self-isolating on a precautionary basis.

The sectors with the highest number of employees medically certified to receive the Illness Benefit are wholesale/retail trade (12,890) followed by human health and social work (12,787) and manufacturing (8,582).

Minster for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said that while this week's PUP decrease was encouraging, it was evident to all that Covid-19 continues to be active, and can resurface in communities without warning.

"As more businesses prepare to reopen and schools and colleges return, it is now more vital than ever that we take every possible precaution to protect ourselves, our families and our work colleagues," she said.

She noted that the Government, under the advice of NPHET, was currently finalising the new plan for 'living with Covid' which will be published tomorrow, adding: "For the roadmap to work as effectively as possible, we must carry our daily lives as if the virus is among us."

She also paid tribute to frontline workers, who for many months put their own lives on the line to tackle this "awful" virus.

The department reminded parents and guardians to check if they were eligible for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance - a means-tested payment which has been extended to PUP recipients.

Meanwhile, the Revenue Commissioners have confirmed that as of this morning, 33,015 employers have registered for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, which replaced the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme on 1 September.

However, statistics on the number of employees covered, and the ongoing cost of the scheme, will not be available until mid-October.