Monday, 29 March 2021
Living with Covid-19: Statements
I am sharing time with Senator Carrigy.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I will be measured in what I suggest. I ask her to be realistic about both the numbers and the restrictions. The numbers are volatile and people are struggling, as can be seen with slipping compliance to the rules, so I ask her to be conservative but compassionate. I back increasing the travel restriction to perhaps 10 km, or something more realistic for rural areas, and allowing people to meet one other family outside in a public space in order that children can have a playdate and parents can have a bit of a break. I back allowing outdoor sports for children in small controlled numbers and Foróige programme groups to meet in small groups. I back increasing the rate of vaccination for staff in special schools and gardaí. Moreover, I want the Minister of State to consider the utilisation of outdoor spaces and amenities such as Dublin Zoo, an issue I have raised a great deal over the past week.People need more space. We are all congregating in the same public spaces. They are not actually controlled environments in the way places like Dublin Zoo or Fota Wildlife Park are, which can control the numbers through their gates. My local parks are being closed because of numbers at the weekend. I am speaking about St. Catherine's Park and Millennium Park in Dublin 15. Before Christmas, the zoo showed that one can pre-book and there is no queuing up or interaction. It had restricted numbers, a one-way system and no indoor areas. Everything was outdoors and people moved along. It can also comply with travel restrictions. We need to think about things like this which will give people a bit more breathing space. That is what this is. It is breathing space and a lifeline to people who might get to visit and also to those businesses and charities.
I agree that we need to prioritise people's mental health. Children must come first. I say that as someone who stands here knowing that not all classes have gone back to school. I also wish to share my condolences. I do not think there is a person here who would disagree with zero Covid. To do that, however, we must get Stormont or the two islands on board to make it work.