Dáil debates

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


12:10 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I understand the argument Deputy Murphy is making. I can even understand, on occasion, the desire to seek to wish to blame someone for the fact that we are now experiencing a second wave of the virus. However, I do not believe the argument Deputy Murphy is making - that it is down to failures in testing and tracing - really stacks up. Let us consider Denmark, for example, a country that is doing three times as much testing as us. Guess what Denmark is experiencing? A second wave with a similar incidence of the virus to what we have. Let us take, for example, somewhere like Germany, which handled the first wave really well. Germany was extraordinarily impressive in terms of its ability to test, trace and isolate people. It has just recorded a record number of cases, the highest ever. The number is higher than even during the first wave. This is something that is happening all across Europe. All across Europe we are experiencing a second wave and pretty much every country in Europe is now recording record case numbers despite the best efforts of their Governments, populations and health authorities.

We should avoid the temptation to make it so simplistic that if only X, Y or Z had been done by someone else it would all have been grand, because that is not really what the facts tell us. I will explain why I believe that is not the case.

I want to pay tribute in particular to all the people who are involved in testing and tracing across Ireland currently. We talk a good deal about our hospitals being overwhelmed. Thankfully, so far, they are not. We have approximately 30 people in intensive care units and we have capacity for 350 beds. We have approximately 200 patients out of 11,000 beds. However, the people who are really overwhelmed at the moment are the wonderful people working in our laboratories who are processing 15,000 tests per day, the medical scientists, the wonderful public health doctors and contact tracers who are now trying to contact trace the contacts of 1,000 people nearly every day. That is really tough on them. The best thing we can do for them is to follow the public health advice. If we are going to have several hundred or 1,000 positives per day, and each of those has six or seven contacts, then that is 7,000 people per day who have to be contact traced. We would need an army of people, probably an army bigger than our Army, to trace that many people every day. The best thing we can do to help our laboratories, doctors, contact tracers, medical scientists and all the people who are helping to keep this virus at bay is to follow the public health advice to reduce our contacts. We should reduce them to the minimum possible while still living a realistic and possible life. That is how we can help them.


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