Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Covid-19: New Measures: Statements


6:27 pm

Photo of Sorca ClarkeSorca Clarke (Longford-Westmeath, Sinn Fein)

I want to raise two specific issues this evening, the first of which is testing. In my constituency of Longford-Westmeath, there are no slots available today for PCR tests. People want to get tested. This delay and the inability to avail of a test during the current surge of Covid are unjustifiable. One of my staff members needed to get tested. She was fortunate to be able to get a slot, but that required a 128 km round trip from Athlone because there is no testing centre in the area. Anyone who goes to the website will be directed to the centre in County Laois referred to by Deputy Patricia Ryan.

This Government has no plans to increase the number of testing centres. I have spoken to the HSE locally and I was told it is a national decision and that the HSE has not been given the go-ahead or any hint of a go-ahead for additional testing centres in Athlone, Mullingar or Longford. I raise this issue because Westmeath has the highest percentage on a 14-day rolling average of cases across this country. Longford has the fourth highest percentage of cases. We need additional test centres. Earlier this week, I implored the Minister for Health to put those in place. I am still waiting for a response to that request. I would have appreciated getting it this evening but the Minister has left the Chamber.

There is another issue. From the beginning, we have been hearing from the HSE about the importance of hand hygiene. There are still 17,500 people in Longford on a boil water notice. Most of those who have underlying conditions are terrified not only of the pandemic but what is coming out of their taps.

I will move on to schools. While I welcome the introduction of antigen testing in schools, finally, this is not good enough. There needs to be change. We need to move to a place where schools feel supported. We all agree that children were out of school for too long, but the principals with whom I am engaging are telling me they feel abandoned. To add insult to injury, the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, was on national television trying to tell people that schools were funded for HEPA filtration when the funding was for CO2 monitors. One principal I spoke to got five monitors, two of which, straight out of the box, did not work and three gave different readings while hanging in the same room. We all want and need proper HEPA filtration systems in classrooms. They need to be put in place as soon as possible.

One of two things are happening here. This is either chronic bad management and a lack of leadership or it is the first step in the Government accepting what Dr. Ronan Glynn said earlier about Covid being out of control and moving to a stage of assuming and accepting that we will all get it.


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