Dáil debates

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Workplace Ventilation (Covid-19) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]


10:52 am

Photo of Paul DonnellyPaul Donnelly (Dublin West, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

We have long known that Covid is an airborne virus. The response from the Minister and the Department on the issue of ventilation has been nothing short of useless. Yesterday evening, I watched the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, admit on RTÉ television that he took advice from one group, namely, the antimicrobial resistance and infection control, AMRIC, team, but has ignored the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, as well as NPHET's own expert group on ventilation, which has also recommended the use of ventilation systems.

The provision of CO2 monitors is insufficient to ensure clean air in classrooms. Simply monitoring the air quality is not good enough. Many classrooms, particularly those in older buildings, do not have adequate ventilation. Some smaller education resource rooms do not even have windows. Children and teaching staff are freezing in classrooms, wearing hats and scarves during the school day while the windows are open to try to keep them safe. I refer to the increase in heating costs. Schools will be really struggling at the end of the year to find the money to pay those bills.

It should not have to be this way. It is clear that HEPA filtration has a key role to play in ensuring classrooms have clear air. Whereas CO2 can monitor air quality, HEPA filters actively remove contaminants from the air. All present know there is a two-tier education system. This morning, I received an email and a photograph from a school which proudly announced that the parents have bought a filtration system for every single class in the school. However, there is another school in my area that does not have a single filtration system. Some parents are buying them for single classrooms. That is not what we need in society. A two-tier education system is being created. It has always been such a system and that needs to end. I urge the Minister to go to his colleagues who are in charge of education and demand that these filtration systems be installed. We already have the costings. We know other countries are doing this. It is important it is done for children and staff.


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