Monday, 29 March 2021
Living with Covid-19: Statements
The Minister of State is very welcome back to the House. We are here to talk about living with Covid. We are kind of coping with Covid. Our families, our children, our young people, our old people, people who have lost their jobs and people who are losing their businesses are all on tenterhooks. We are all just waiting with bated breath for our vaccines. I am taking to prayer. Let us hope to get more supply. Everything seems to be hooked on the supply of vaccines. We must try to come up with a plan B. I ask that serious consideration be given to antigen testing, which Senator Craughwell talked about earlier. There is a real need for community in this country. We need to get back out there and to talk to our neighbours and friends. We need sport. I really hope that outdoor sports and activities can start again.I see in my children that they need to get back to playing GAA. They are wilting without their friends and without the ability to put on their Cooley Kickhams jersey and get out there as part of their under-sevens and under-eights teams. It is really important and that applies to everyone from young children to young adults. That collegiality and mental health aspect is brought about by taking part in sport. I see that in my club at home, Glenmore Athletic Club. We have tried so hard over the past year to build a virtual collegiality, with virtual competitions such as to see whether the females in the club can cover more kilometres than the men. It is all done through WhatsApp and Facebook. We have got to the point, however, where we are all really exhausted by it. We see another video on Facebook, such as another "Jerusalema" dance, and it is great and positive but we are just exhausted.
I hope that next week we will see some light and some return to normality. There will be a boost from the increased supply of vaccines but that will not sort out the matter for all of us. Alongside Covid vaccines, there needs to be antigen testing in order that people can test themselves. Thankfully, both my parents have received their first vaccination doses. Perhaps with antigen testing, I could visit their house, even to sit outside on the patio, and be comfortable while having a cup of tea and a chat with them. We need a roadmap, although I hate to use that word because the roadmap has turned corners and bends in and out.
As well as sport, we need to reopen construction, which is an essential service given that we are in the middle of a housing crisis. The issue of antigen testing applies in this case too. Many construction sites offer antigen testing. Construction companies have very thorough health and safety measures in any event and Covid adds another layer to that health and safety.
The mental health of all of us has been damaged over the past year but an avalanche is coming for people who have been stuck at home cocooning and are now afraid to go back out into the real world. We have to consider our mental health and the health of the public, and get cancer screening back up and running with additional resources. We need to look after our families, our older and young people and children, and hope for those better days ahead.