Thursday, 25 February 2021
Health (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage
I will not take very long on this issue. Members are aware of the distress that people are experiencing. It has been recognised many times in the House, particularly today. Members are aware that people are worried and disgruntled and wish to see a plan and a way through this. They do not believe a sufficient amount is being done with regard to the particular issue of hotel quarantining.
Sinn Féin welcomes the fact that the Government has got to the point of discussing quarantining people coming in from 20 countries. All present know the current difficulties. We know of the Californian, Brazilian and South African strains, but we do not know from where the next strain will come or where the real difficulty may be. What we need to do is to ensure the ultimate protection we can give our people is in place and that means quarantining across the board in respect of flights into Ireland. I accept that those who are involved in freight and supply chains are an absolutely necessary part of the workforce to ensure we maintain an element of connectivity. We cannot do absolutely everything we need to do, but we can do a hell of a lot more and we need to ensure it is done as soon as possible.
Many Deputies have recently expressed concerns in the House regarding problems that are obviously very distressing, particularly for some older citizens, such as people showing up to be vaccinated but the vaccines not being available. We need those problems to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
An issue that frightens me is that it is expected that 100,000 vaccines will be delivered this week, while in April, May and June there could be at least 250,000 vaccines a week. We need to ensure that we have the infrastructure and capacity to deliver that. We need not only to deal with these individual issues but also to ensure that the system is absolutely streamlined.
Deputy Cullinane addressed the issue of the Sinn Féin amendment that has been ruled out of order but I am not particularly worried about the amendment. What I am worried about is delivery with regard to the sharing of information North and South on people travelling into this country from the point of view of ensuring that we do what we can in the context of mandatory quarantine. We cannot do everything, but we can do a lot more. It is as simple as that. We need to fireproof people from the vaccine as much as possible. That is the whole idea of hotel quarantining.
We need to be ahead of the game rather than waiting until we identify five, six, seven, eight, nine or ten cases of a new strain which may be worse than any of the strains we have seen before. We need to protect people and the vaccination programme and we need to deal with the issues. Sinn Féin calls on the Government to change its tack with regard to supporting these amendments or dealing with the reality that we need hotel quarantine for travellers into Ireland from every other country. We need an all-Ireland response and, if that cannot be delivered, we need a two-island response. It is as simple as that.