Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Covid-19: Reframing the Challenge, Continuing our Recovery and Reconnecting: Statements


5:15 pm

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister and all the Deputies for their contributions to this debate. It is important to discuss the various challenges that exist. While 92.4% of people over 18 years of age have been fully vaccinated, unfortunately, in this case vaccination does not give immunity. Earlier, my colleague outlined how one can be fully vaccinated but still be a carrier of and contract Covid-19. That is the challenge we have with Covid-19.

We are not far from going into a third year of dealing with this issue. It started in March 2020 and it is now over 20 months in which staff have been on the front line dealing with large numbers of admissions, particularly to the intensive care units. It is important to acknowledge their commitment, dedication and hard work over the last 20 months and the way they have dealt with the pandemic. It is important to acknowledge their contribution. As we confront the new challenges over the past number of weeks, they still have to deal with very difficult situations.

As there is still a large group of people not vaccinated, it is important to convey a message to encourage them to take the option of vaccination. I understand from the HSE that over 1,000 people per day are being vaccinated. Can we get that number up to 2,000 or 3,000 per day over the next two to three weeks to help improve the number of people who are vaccinated? One concern I have relates to obstetrics-gynaecology. A medical consultant recently advised on social media that she had seen ten patients in a clinic, nine of whom had not taken the vaccine. A special effort is required in respect of that cohort, women who are pregnant or who want to get pregnant, to convey that the vaccine should not in any way cause any type of restriction or damage. It is important to get the message out to that cohort to ensure that if a woman is coming into clinics regularly over the six or seven month period, she will not put anyone else coming into those clinics at risk, and to ensure the woman can feel that she is not putting the baby she is carrying at risk either. It is important to get that message out.

The challenge now is that, according to yesterday's figures, the number of people in ICU is 86, with 14 admitted over the 24-hour period up to yesterday, and the number of people in hospital is 464, with 54 admitted in the preceding 24-hour period. It is a huge number in a very short period of time. According to the figures for the last seven days, over 155,000 people were tested and 8.9% got a positive result. That shows the virus is continuing to spread and the number of people contracting it continues to increase. We all need to convey the message about being more careful, wearing masks, keeping one's distance and all the other precautions that must be taken.

With regard to the hospitality sector, the figures we have seen relating to HSE inspections are not welcome news. Two thirds compliance is not good enough. That means one third are not fully compliant. Where one third of the people in the hospitality sector are not compliant, it means they are now contributing to us possibly facing into another closure. They are the net losers by not complying fully with the regulations at this stage. That is disappointing.

They are also putting themselves, their employees and the people who are attending their restaurant or bar at risk. People should not frequent premises where they see no checks are in place. If we want to deal with this pandemic, we need to ensure that the regulations are complied with insomuch as they can be.

It is interesting that we have now decided that people over 60 should get the booster vaccine. I welcome that more than 123,000 people aged over 80 have already received that booster. We need to continue to work on the cohort of people who have not received a first vaccination, let alone two.

The difficulty with antigen testing is that it is not foolproof. A very good explanation was given recently about the difference between antigen testing and PCR testing. Someone could get a negative result on an antigen test today and be positive on an antigen test in three days' time, whereas a PCR test today will show up as positive because the degree of infection is at a lower scale initially and it increases as the days go on. That is difficulty with antigen testing. It would be welcome to use it, but it does not provide a comprehensive result. That is the difficulty that any establishment would have in using antigen testing.

While much work has been done, this is a new challenge and we see something new every day. Four, six or eight weeks ago, we did not expect to be in the position we are today. Unfortunately, we now have those numbers of patients in ICU beds and in hospitals. We need to see the numbers contracting the virus level off and then start to reduce again. I do not believe we have reached the maximum level of people contracting the virus and that is the difficulty we will face over the next two to three weeks.

It is important to ensure that all those who work in the healthcare sector get full support and that where needed, additional resources are provided. I agree that we also need to ensure we have an adequate number of step-down beds in the coming months. We have much catching up to do in all areas of healthcare, in ensuring that people who are on waiting lists for elective surgery can be dealt with in a timely manner. I thank the Minister for the work he is doing.

I join my colleagues who have raised the issue of Nadim Hussain in the direct provision centre on the Kinsale Road, Cork. It is a very serious issue. While I know it cuts across a number of Departments, something needs to be done on that issue and I ask the Minister to take it on board.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.