Friday, 20 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála eile ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail), 2020: An Dara Céim - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Second Stage
I thank the Minister for coming into the House. Dr. John Crown, who was in this Chamber for five years, has been speaking extensively on this issue. We should all listen to his guidance because he is speaking based on what he is seeing happening in Italy. He is talking to people there and what is happening is nothing short of a war zone. We have to take that advice and not delay by five days. We are making every decision just that little bit late, and that is the advice we are getting. The shutdown that has worked in other jurisdictions is required, as are a range of measures. Dr. Crown is talking about what works, however, and that is what matters. I know that is what the Minister is doing in many instances.
One issue that has come up, however, concerns voluntary groups, such as the GAA and others, helping the elderly and bringing food and supplies to people. Those groups need proper advice and guidance on how to deliver food. I contacted the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, but I do not think the response was adequate. Irish Rural Link came up with advice on how to approach people, which applies to urban and rural areas, to ensure they have choices and that two people go to a house at any one time. That safety advice is very important. I do not know if the Minister's Department has that information ready for the GAA, which will be able to disseminate it. I might contact the Minister's office later to see if we can get that out. I state that because my brother is involved in a meals on wheels system and I asked if he realised that every item he has is a possible source of contamination. One of the pieces of advice Dr. John Crown shared was for people to act as if they had the virus. People should not act as if they are trying to prevent themselves from getting the virus. Instead, people should wonder how they would act if they knew they had the virus. Would they go to the shop? Would they touch door handles? Would they visit their parents or grandparents? That is the message we have to get out to those kids hanging around street corners. We have to get that idea into their heads.
Another issue concerns ventilators. Ireland is now the centre of the world regarding this crisis. People in Galway are making 50% of all acute ventilators in the world. They, along with our medical staff, are the key to addressing this issue. Those are people the Department of Health needs to ensure stay healthy. We all know the statistics. Some 60% of people will get the virus. If those people working in Galway get the virus, the ventilators will not be produced. Medtronic is bringing staff in from all over the world. We need to ensure that supply chain, more than any other, is the one that keeps going to ensure that not only Irish people have access to ventilators, but also people in Northern Ireland, the European Union and, as Senator Craughwell pointed out, those countries now under global sanctions by the United States and others. We cannot have a situation where countries such as Russia, Iraq and Iran are prevented from saving lives because we cannot give them ventilators. I appeal to the Minister's office, therefore, to work with that company. The staff working in Galway may have to be put into a hotel, because they are going home to their families, interacting with them and there is a possibility of community contagion as a result. Those staff are possibly the most important 250 people in the world right now. It is vitally important how they are looked after.
I thank the Minister for coming into the House and I might touch base with him again regarding community groups. They are doing great work, but if they are not getting the simple guidance on how to process food and hand it over safely, they could be doing more harm than good. All those groups want to do good, but we have to give them the guidance to ensure they can do that.