Friday, 20 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála eile ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail), 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
I thank Senators for these questions and I wish to provide reassurance at the outset. I am the Minister for Health and have no wish to detain anybody. We are talking about a situation where we believe somebody could have Covid-19 and we want to assist the person medically and isolate him or her for the protection of people from this pandemic and the person is refusing, for whatever reason, to take that assistance. We believe it is highly unlikely that this will arise. Senator Reilly will know, as a former Minister for Health, that such detention provisions exist for notifiable diseases under the 1947 Act. One already can be detained. The difference here is that sometimes getting confirmation of the existence of the infectious disease can take a little longer than is the case with the infectious diseases we dealt with previously.
I take on board the points made by Senators Higgins and Bacik in terms of trying to provide that reassurance through regulation, particularly with regard to the role of advocacy, in case we do not get time to discuss it, the right to a review and a standard forum. I wish to give them assurances on that. The only reason 14 days is provided for is that it is seen as an outer limit. That is the period of time in which one can become symptomatic. Anything less than that could end up inadvertently defeating the purpose of the legislation, which is to slow the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19.