Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Covid-19: New Measures: Statements

 

4:27 pm

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)

I welcome the Minister and the Minister of State to the House. I listened with respect and interest to what they said. Like my colleague, Deputy Crowe, I would like to pay tribute to all of the people in the health service, such as the nurses, the doctors, the healthcare assistants, the people who test and the people who get the test results and who work on them. Their commitment is fantastic. We all acknowledge that they are under extreme stress at the moment in this difficult time.

More than 5,600 people have died from Covid-19 to date. As a nation, we need to commemorate the trauma, the suffering and the loss. We need a day of national remembrance. I have said this before, and I know nobody will disagree with this. We need to have a structure in place for a national day to commemorate all of those who passed during that time.

I note the Minister of State’s comments on nursing homes. I agree with the excellent work that she is doing there. However, there is a significant absence of action in addressing the deaths in some nursing homes. The deaths in Dealgan House are of deep concern to me and my constituents. Indeed, the deaths in other nursing homes in other parts of the country need to be properly investigated. It does not appear as if that is going to happen anytime soon and I am concerned about that. I will continue the campaign in the interim. If the Government cannot or will not provide an inquiry, the Oireachtas committee should sit again to examine this issue once again. In the UK Parliament had a parliamentary inquiry. It is time to have one here as well. All parties in the Oireachtas should talk to get an outcome that would make sense to the families. They should be able to bear witness to the suffering of their loved ones and we might be able to find the truth of what happened in a transparent, accountable place like our Parliament.

I would also like to talk about County Louth, which has the highest rate of Covid-19 in the country. The national average per 100,000 is 1,160 cases. In Laytown and Bettystown, in my constituency, the figure is almost double that, at 1,876. In Drogheda rural, the figure 1,963. In Drogheda town, the figure is 2,415 per 100,000. That is an appalling and a frightening statistic. I accept that we are doing our best, but we are not doing enough. This evening, you can get no Covid-19 test in County Louth, or indeed in County Meath. The Minister can say what he likes about that, but this is the biggest town in the country. It has the highest rate of Covid-19 nationally but it has no test centre. It had a test centre during the summer for a significant period of time. We need it back. I have requested it and I understand the director of public health has requested it. To date nothing is happening. We do not accept this. It is unfair on families, particularly those with young children, who have to phone around and truck around to adjoining counties. That is unacceptable.

In October, there was demand in County Louth for 12,454 tests, and from 1 to 21 November there were 11,964 tests. It is a very significant issue and it needs to be addressed.

Vaccination is very important. There is great news in an ECDC report today, showing that 93% of the Irish population is vaccinated and our number of deaths per million is 15. It is not the lowest in Europe but it is the highest vaccination rate and one of the lowest death rates. Bulgaria, in comparison, is bottom of the list, with a 29% vaccination rate and a death rate of 325 per million. Clearly, vaccination works. There are too many people in our country who are not vaccinated and who are getting seriously ill. From 1 April to 20 November 2021, 623 persons over 15 years were admitted to ICU with confirmed Covid. Of those, 393 did not have a Covid vaccine. That is 63% of all the people admitted to ICU since 1 April. There is a huge risk to these people's health and lives. Like my colleague, I am very concerned about this. I accept that there are people who have medical reasons for not getting vaccinated but we must accept that more must be done. We should extend mandatory Covid certification to a significant number of other activities, excluding essential services. This is the only way to proceed. We cannot allow unvaccinated people to take up services that are urgently required and not available to the population who are vaccinated and need those services.

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