The department said that 22,310 of these getting the payment are women and 30,778 are men.

The sector with the highest number of people in receipt of PUP is the Wholesale and Retail Trade sector with 8,961 people working in this sector getting the payment.

This is followed by Accommodation and Food Service Activities (7,905) and Administrative and support service activities (6,141).

The PUP was introduced rapidly by the Government in March 2020 to provide an income safety net to those who lost their jobs when Covid pandemic restrictions were introduced.

At its peak in May of last year, the PUP was being claimed by 605,000 people across a large range of sectors and in total more than 900,000 have received at least one payment at some point over the last 22 months.

The department figures today also show that 5,145 people are currently in receipt of an Enhanced Illness Benefit payment.

The PUP now has five rates as it reopened today to new entrants laid off as a result of the latest Government Covid-19 restrictions.

The top rate will be €350 and will be available to those earning €400 or more a week.

Those who received wages between €300 and €399 prior to being laid off will be entitled to €300.

There will be a €250 rate payable to those who were earning €200-€299, and €203 to those in the €151.50-€200 bracket.

A new rate of €150 will be paid to those who had previously been earning less than €151.50.

The Department of Social Protection said this was is to align the PUP with the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

It also better reflects the earnings of part-time workers, the department said.

The reopening of the PUP is limited to those who lose their employment as a direct result of the introduction of the new restrictions from today onwards.

The department said it will use Revenue data to verify employment status for all applications.

The Minister for Social Protection said the PUP will apply to anyone who loses their job due to the restrictions announced last Friday.

Heather Humphreys said that her department wants to support people who work in nightclubs and in hospitality.

She added that the department will be carrying out checks.