Thursday, 25 February 2021
Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
I did not catch the Deputy's interjection, but I wish to make clear to him that Ireland is doing extremely well compared with other countries. Indeed, if he had been listening to the Minister for Health, he would know that we have ordered in the region of 10 million vaccines. The issue about vaccination is that we all went together as European citizens. The Deputy may be aware that there is a meeting today of all the European Union Heads of State and Government with the aim of rolling out the vaccines even more quickly than has been the case up to now. Significant progress has been made.
The sun is shining today and we are in a different phase of spring. Changes are coming in our society as a result of the sacrifices that people have made. Many have made significant sacrifices and thousands have died but the facts are that on this morning the R number is going down and the numbers of people in hospitals and ICUs are going down. We are vaccinating more than 100,000 people per week and that number will shortly be 250,000 per week. Children are returning to schools and preschools. Routine health checks are beginning to recommence. I welcome the progress that has been made with regard to Breastcheck.
There are serious issues, such as that of vaccination centres. It is not acceptable that towns such as Drogheda, which is the largest urban area in the country outside of the cities and has a population in excess of 40,000, will not have a vaccination centre. The Minister must address that issue now. He must bring the vaccinators to the people rather than the other way around. It does not make sense for everybody in the town of Drogheda to travel to Dundalk or Navan when the vaccinators could come to the town to deliver the vaccine in an appropriate and proper environment.
I refer to the two-island strategy. We should converge as much as possible with the United Kingdom and, indeed, the Administration in Northern Ireland because of the existence of the common travel area. We must ensure that people can meet their family members, whom they may not have seen for more than a year, and that we can have the same regulations east and west and North and South. That would make a significant difference for many families. I have not seen my grandchildren for more than a year. The same is true for thousands of people in this country and I want that to change.
On the issue of change, the Dáil should be sitting five days a week in this Chamber and, if needs be, in the Dáil Chamber or the Seanad Chamber in Leinster House to ensure there is due and proper analysis of all the movements and changes that are happening in the health services in order that we can have true and proper accountability.