Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Outbreaks of Covid-19 in Meat Processing Plants: Statements

 

10:25 pm

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)

I thank the Ministers, Deputies Humphreys and Creed, for their statements to the Dáil this evening. It is very disappointing, however, that the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris is not in the Chamber. Given that we are here tonight to talk about the impact of Covid-19 infections in meat plants, in neither of their statements did the Ministers give an up-to-date position to the House on the number of positive cases or the number of clusters in meat factories throughout the State currently. This is a glaring omission in both of the Ministers' submissions before the House. Will at least one Minister outline in their response an immediate update for the House on that?

It is clear and obvious that many mistakes have been made in how this issue has been handled. I ask both Ministers to clarify if they agree there have been mistakes in this regard. How can the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, be satisfied that there have been no Health and Safety Authority, HSA, inspections of meat plants, given that we are aware of some 900 cases to date? How can the Minister be satisfied there were no HSA inspections up to Tuesday, which is the information we are currently aware of?

On testing and how it is taking place, will the Ministers clarify what are the turnaround times for testing in factories? Are employees given absolute priority in how this is happening? How on earth can it be right that when testing takes place, factories do not temporarily close for a deep clean until the results come back? It is essential that the results are back as quickly as possible, which can be done within 48 hours, but why are factories not closed temporarily during this period to ensure a proper read and assessment of infection levels can be got, and to ensure that anyone returning to work has results back and is negative? Many lessons must be learned here, and especially as other factories in other sectors across the country will be returning to work in the period ahead. The Government has to be upfront about the mistakes that were made and ensure they are not repeated.

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