Seanad debates

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Living with Covid-19 Restrictions: Statements (Resumed)


10:30 am

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I know people who have never been contacted by the contact tracing team or the HSE. In saying that, I pay tribute to the men and women working on the front line in Covid wards and ICUs for the way in which they look after and care for patients. Equally, I pay tribute to the people who work in nursing homes for the care they give to older citizens.

There is a real debate needed, whether regarding retail, sport, hospitality or education but the list goes on. This morning, the Teachers Union of Ireland made a very positive and worthwhile suggestion that 18 December would be a cut-off point for schools, which is a very tangible measure that can be taken.

With the permission of the Cathaoirleach I wish to read into the record of the House an email I received from a person who works in the hospitality sector. It reads:

We are all delighted that the numbers are coming down and we look forward to re-opening. However, in order to re-open we need to know this week will we be opening on Level 3, Level 2 as there is a huge difference between both levels from a staffing, stocking and organisational point of view. We need to know how many staff to hire and how much stock to bring in, in order to open on 1 December, if we will open at all. We need to bring staff back beginning the week of November 24th to clean, to organise the re-opening of our premises again. It is not possible to re-open with 24 hours' notice of which level we will be re-opening under.

We are also getting inquiries regarding bookings for December but we cannot make any commitments and are unable to take any bookings until we have an outline indication.

I appreciate that Government may not want to make an announcement on re-opening levels and that public health and safety is of paramount importance and then have to change their plans but we need to be able to re-open in a timely and safe manner.

We have all received emails about public health and how people are treated. There is a need for a debate. In its contributions this week, IBEC has been very moderate in asking for clear indications. We welcome the announcement by different pharmaceutical companies with regard to vaccines, but vaccines in themselves will not be a panacea or spell the end of Covid-19. We must all redouble our efforts.

I am glad the Government did not pander to commentary on a number of small but well-documented incidents in Dublin and Cork at the weekend. To be fair, 99.1% of our population is being very compliant. As an aside, what is it costing the HSE to sponsor content, I believe the weather forecast, on RTÉ? Why is the HSE doing this when that money - if any money is being spent, I am open to correction on that - would be better used in fighting Covid-19?

I again thank the men and women in our health service for the sterling work they are doing every day. I sympathise with the people who have lost loved ones or family members to Covid-19. We all have a duty of care to ensure that the battle against Covid-19 is won and the virus is eliminated. I commend the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, and the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, on the work they are doing.


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