Thursday, 1 April 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I think it is the case that Britain and Northern Ireland are going to open up faster than here, largely as a consequence of the fact that the vaccine roll-out is happening faster there. However, the difference is going to be a couple of weeks. If one goes to Northern Ireland or England now, one is not going to find restaurants or non-essential retail open. None of those services are open there yet. They are a few weeks ahead of us but not as much as people may think. The Deputy should bear in mind that we are far ahead of other EU countries and most of the world in terms of our vaccine roll-out. There are 200 countries in the world, 27 in the EU and we are in the top tier when it comes to all of these things.
In regard to vaccine priority, nobody doubts the essential work and the quality of work that is done by teachers, retail workers, SNAs, carers and the ten or 20 professions I could mention whom we all respect and whose work has been essential during this pandemic. The reason we have gone to an age-based cohort is that it is the fastest way of doing it. It is also the fairest way of doing it because people in their 50s and 60s are at much higher risk of getting very sick or dying from this virus than people in their 30s and 40s, regardless of their profession. It is based on scientific advice. If the Deputy wants to make a submission to NIAC, if he is sincere about this, he should do so. He should set down which people he thinks should be prioritised, in which order, and then present the evidence that they are more at risk than people in their 50s and 60s.