Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

 

12:30 pm

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

Denmark is a fabulous and well-run country and has great public services. However, it does have a significantly higher incidence of the virus than Ireland does now. We need to bear that in mind. Notwithstanding the numbers in recent days plateauing rather than continuing to fall, we are the third lowest now in Europe. Only Iceland and Finland have a lower incidence of the virus than we do. That is testimony to the work that Irish people and society have done in reducing the transmission of the virus.

I believe teachers have done a fabulous job. They have done an amazing job in my view in recent months in getting schools open, keeping them open and in dealing with cases and clusters as they arise. I pay tribute to them for doing this work in recent weeks and months. I have visited a couple of schools in recent weeks and it has been really impressive to see the way our teachers and boards of management have created a new normal environment for children in which to get their education. We owe them a real debt of gratitude.

Schools are safe places for teachers and children. In a pandemic nowhere is 100% safe - not even a person's home is 100% safe. Yet, as far as things go, schools are among the safest places in which to be during this pandemic. That applies to the staff as well as the students. We need to reassure people of that.

Deputy Smith has raised a particular matter around HSE advice. I would be happy to look into that further. I do not know the details. I would have thought that if someone is advised by a doctor to take health and safety leave or sick leave during pregnancy, that would be enough. Certainly, when I was practising as a general practitioner, if a pregnant woman came into my surgery and I believed it was appropriate for her to take health and safety leave or sick leave, I would certify it. I have never come across it being second-guessed by someone else. If Deputy Smith wants to pass on some more details about that to me, I would be happy to have it explored and to see what the situation is.

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