Dáil debates

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

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


11:02 am

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I commend Deputy Paul Murphy and his group on bringing forward this Bill. It is very timely but it is not the first time the Deputy has brought up this matter. In fact, if memory services me correctly, this matter was brought up as far back as the Covid committee, which was summer of 2020. This is something, therefore, that group has pushed for for a long time. The reason they and others have done so is because this is a real measure that will help reduce and suppress the transmission of this virus. It is not a reactive or panicked measure. It is a forward-looking proactive measure that will help, if implemented in schools, workplaces, public buildings and buildings used by the public, to reduce and suppress the virus. The measure will also have the longer term effect of improving the air quality inside buildings and prevent the transmission of other viruses. At home we can open our windows as and when we wish. If we are heading to a shop, we can get a draught through the house or whatever we want. We do not have that luxury in businesses, workplaces and schools.

We know where we are at with schools at the moment, and Deputy Ó Ríordáin will speak in more detail about that. We have kids who are freezing cold, wearing their coats and masks but the windows are open. It is bizarre. We do not want to sit here criticising Government policy just because we are in Opposition, but it is hard not to criticise something so bloody ludicrous when we have, and have spoken about, a potential solution for nearly a year and a half.

HEPA filters work. Let us consider an environment where HEPA filters have been used for many years. There is no more contained and enclosed environment than aeroplanes and they have used HEPA filters for years. In all studies that have been done on the spread of this virus, and I am not talking about travel or anything like that, the risk of being on an aeroplane and spreading the virus is very low because of the use of HEPA filters, yet we are not putting them in schools where our children are learning. We are not putting them in businesses. We are not putting them in venues where the arts community is able to work. Why? Because this Government continues to take a reactive panicked approach. It continues to hope that every wave is going to be the last even though the WHO has said this pandemic is going to be here until 2023 and we need to put in place long-term measures to pandemic-proof, as best as possible, our society to protect the health service, protect our children in school, protect workers and protect society. The reason the temperature of anger in Opposition is getting so high is because we have been putting forward practical solutions such as this for a long time that would have benefits far beyond this pandemic.

When it comes to health and safety inspectors, if we go back to the spread of the virus in meat plants in the summer of 2020 and indeed beyond that, we know we do not have enough health and safety inspectors. We need to resource the Health and Safety Authority to ensure we have inspectors who are able to monitor workplaces, schools and public buildings in terms of the measures proposed in this Bill. This is good public health policy. This is not radical stuff. This is proven good public health policy, so it beggars belief as to why it has not been done. As we have heard, money is not an object here. This is political will and that is why we are so angry. We fully support this Bill. This is a very good Bill and it has our support.


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