Thursday, 25 February 2021
Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
As many Deputies have stated, there has been a significant difficulty with miscommunication. Even the Government has admitted that because it is beyond denial. The live-streaming of parliamentary party meetings is not a pretty sight. A person said to me earlier that parliamentary party meetings are like the making of sausages - far from pretty and nobody should know what happens inside them. It really is not helping people that they are getting multiple lines from multiple sources and they are not entirely sure which to believe. It is okay for those of us who listen to every detailed news bulletin and can see generally what is happening, but that is not the case for everybody. What is done is done, but we need the Government, the Minister, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to collectively get their act together and get the messaging sorted because one of the difficulties people have with regard to the vaccine roll-out is that they lack confidence in it. They will only have confidence when they are given a plan, see that plan enacted and have absolute clarity from on top. We need that to happen.
A significant number of people have made great sacrifices. Not everybody has done so, but a significant number of people have. Those people expect the Parliament, the Government and the State to do their part. The Government has taken its time getting to the point of agreeing to the quarantining of travellers from approximately 20 countries. I accept that there is latitude for more countries to be added to that list, but what we really need is for hotel quarantine to be introduced for everybody coming into the country. That would deal with any issues of indirect flights and from where a person came. All Members are aware of the issues with regard to the various strains of the virus. In this State, we must reduce the numbers. We need to ensure that we do not allow a greater level of transmission or the creation of new strains. We definitely do not need to import any new strains. This legislation will be reviewed and there is a three-month sunset clause, so we should ensure that hotel quarantine is brought in across the board.
This is about regaining the dressing room. The only way the Government will do so is by showing people that is has their backs. Sinn Féin accepts that this is not New Zealand and that there is a significant number of essential workers who are necessary for the supply chain, but we need to fireproof as much as we can. We have been hearing about progress with regard to the sharing of information relating to international travellers North and South for a long time. At this point, I want to see a solution and nothing else. I am not particularly worried about whether we get an all-Ireland response or a two-island response, but we need a better response. It is as simple as that. All Members welcome the fact that the number of vaccinations will increase and that there may be 1 million vaccinations per month in April, May and June.
We need to do what we can to ensure that we do not have new strains coming into the country and to protect our people. I beseech the Minister to do what is necessary. We need clarity and better communication. As already stated, what is done is done and we need an improved plan from here on in.