Seanad debates

Monday, 29 March 2021

Living with Covid-19: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

There were two well-known Fine Gael brothers who were both Members of the Dáil, the Mitchells. I cannot remember which one of them was reputed to have said that it is much easier to sound intelligent by being negative. Unfortunately, far too many politicians and commentators have sought to show their intelligence through negativity during this pandemic. It would be fine if it did not have the profound impact that it has had on society. Some political parties and individuals have taken that route, I presume in the belief that they can appear intelligent and will make some political gain from it. That would be fine if it did not have such a profound impact on the lives of individuals. People are deeply affected and genuinely worried.Some are of the belief that there must be another way because there are so many people who have been so negatively disposed towards the Government and who have sought to indicate that there was always a better way. Those people will point to far-flung locations without effectively tracing or tracking the similarities or the differences that pertain in those locations.

We have done reasonably well. Mistakes were made but everybody was starting at this afresh. Some countries have done better and some have done infinitely worse but we are among the best countries in terms of the roll-out of the vaccine. That is the reality and there has been an issue with supply. Some are suggesting that we should have been able to get vaccines from all over the world. Had we not bought into the European model, we would have been priced out of the market, which is what happened when we were trying to get PPE in the early stages of the pandemic last year. The countries with the greatest sources of wealth were grabbing pallets off the forklifts of agents that were operating for Ireland in Hong Kong and China.

We have a job of work to try to hold the Irish people with us. They have come through the worst of it, the vaccine is there and the solution is to get that rolled out as quickly as possible. People have moved on and the reason that numbers are plateauing or perhaps rising a little bit is that people are unable to live within the restrictions as they are currently set. We have to recognise that the restrictions are no longer enforceable and let us stop making criminals out of people. We need to increase the limits to how far people can travel. We can refine it and let people travel within or between counties. Maybe we will restrict what they do when they travel but there are many people whose elderly parents or grandparents are vaccinated or will be vaccinated in the coming days with the significant volume of AstraZeneca vaccine that is on the way. People should be allowed to travel. If there is somebody who has spent the past 12 months here in Dublin and his or her elderly parents are in Cork, Waterford, Clare or wherever have been vaccinated, they should be allowed to travel to see them. That is the reality. We can put restrictions on places such as Kilkee, Lahinch and Liscannor and limit activities there so we do not have an influx of people from Dublin who want to spend the weekend in a beauty spot, whether it is in Wicklow, west Clare or wherever. We can take more careful decisions, rather than continue with this blanket 5 km ban. I know others have talked about 10 km or 15 km travel restrictions but that will not cut it in most situations. We should continue to put restrictions on what people might do when they get there but we should give them the capacity to travel.

I mention play dates, children playing sports and club members playing sports. We have to get that moving again. There are so many children suffering from massive anxiety. I hear it through my constituency office and from friends that people are really worried about children. In fairness to gardaí, they are being helpful to people who present at checkpoints and indicate that they are taking a child to see his or her best friend whom he or she has not seen since Christmas or whenever, and that needs to continue. We need to get construction back and to get people back playing sports. Clubs can be back training in a non-contact way and we should let people play golf and tennis if that is what they want to do, as well as letting people participate in equestrian sports.

People have gotten much more used to social distancing and staying out of harm's way and we can see that in the way the normal flu has not circulated at all this year. We will be living with Covid long after everyone is vaccinated. There will be new strains and people will die with Covid. I met public health doctors in the mid-west region the other day in a virtual way. There are people who have illnesses and who are effectively termed to be at end of life but if they have Covid at end of life then Covid goes on the death certificate. It does not matter if one was dying of cancer, a brain tumour or a multiplicity of other conditions, the death is recorded as being due to Covid. We have to be careful that when we get to the point of people being vaccinated, we do not get hung up on deaths with Covid because people in many situations will have died for another reason. Like others, I extend my condolences to all those who have died with Covid. I pay a huge tribute to the many people who have worked on the front lines and to those who have often not appeared on the front lines but who are working hard behind the scenes.


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