Thursday, 19 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála Eile Ar Mhaithe Le Leas an Phobail), 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
The Bill, and this section, include extreme and draconian powers that in any other circumstances we would not consider giving to agents of the State. They are, however, necessary to deal with the public health emergency and the danger it poses to all our society. If we are to impose these draconian measures then it must be even handed but it seems there are certain groups on which the Government does not want to impose these draconian measures. Two of our amendments refer to them. One group is the non-essential retail outlets, but this could refer to any workplace. If workers are forced to go into work in situations where it is not possible to practise social distancing, in which the Government and public health authorities are rightly encouraging people to engage, those people should have the right to say "I am not going to work", to report those employers to the authorities and for the authorities to move in on those employers and support workers who are trying to protect their own health.
If there are sectors of industry, owners of property, laboratories or production facilities that can produce goods such as ventilators, masks, personal protective equipment and sanitisers who are refusing to submit those capacities to the public health authorities to help to deal with this emergency, we should enact the power to requisition those capacities, resources and properties. Everybody else is rightly being asked to pitch in and so should private industry, laboratories and producers of, for example, testing equipment. I suspect that one of the reasons the infection figures spiked today is because we have had a shortage of swabs and testing equipment, although I might be wrong about that. Much of that testing equipment is produced in this country and yet we have a shortage of it. There is something wrong if that is the case when such equipment is produced in large quantities. We should have the power to take those production facilities for use in addressing the public health emergency.