Monday, 29 March 2021
Living with Covid-19: Statements
Senator Seery Kearney raised that issue as well. It is important that, when we reopen after Easter, the education services that we provide to children be the priority, be they in special schools or classes. Students from first year to third year have not returned to school yet. Neither have transition year students – I cannot leave them out. These students need that social engagement. I have two children in my house. One has gone back to school and the other has not. The one who has gone back is blossoming and loving school. The other girl is at home pining and waiting to return. That is how people are living at the moment, but we must provide education, particularly for young people with disabilities.
Adult day services are starting to resume thanks to vaccinations, although there have been 53 outbreaks in disability centres across the country over the past week. It is important that the vaccination programme continue. To give the House some news, as the programme progresses through cohort 4, it will also include under-65s in residential settings. At the beginning of the debate, Senator Craughwell asked at what point the programme was. It varies from community healthcare organisation, CHO, to CHO. Some CHOs have moved to vaccinating people aged between 75 and 80 while others, based on their populations, are struggling to get their over-80s vaccinated. It is not a geographical issue; rather, it has to do with how many vaccines there are and what the CHOs' populations are.
We have almost 11,000 vaccinators. We have our GPs working their socks off. We have also set up walk-in testing centres. Many dishes are spinning at the same time to try to help with the planning for a reopening, with word to come from the Cabinet. Many sacrifices have been made by many families, front-line workers and young people. We expect that to be balanced by NPHET's contribution. We also expect the Government's recognition of those sacrifices.
I come from a small town in rural area and we cannot survive on the Internet any longer. We cannot compete with a certain large supermarket - I will not name it - where people can pick up a pair of shoes when doing their shopping. There is a small clothes shop for children, but it is not open. It provides online services, but it cannot compete. There are certain items one has to go in and try on, for example, shoes for young people. In the past nine months, some kids have reached the point of taking their first steps but have still not received their shoes. The local boutique store sells its jackets and whatever else is in fashion, but there are larger stores that also serve food where people have the choice of picking up the same items.
The general population has moved ahead of us. It is time to catch up. If we do, with certain measures, the population will respond.There needs to be working together. The most important thing is clear communication about the pathway. We need to recognise that we must continue to do it together. As the vaccination roll-out continues, we need to bring everyone together for the final stage, with the help of God. If 1 million vaccines are arriving, it is about getting them into everyone's arms in April, May and June. There needs to be transparency and hope. We should turn it on its head, as Senator Dooley said and move away from the death numbers that are in our faces every night and get to the place of looking at the number of vaccines that have arrived in the country and delivered. It should not all be about what just happened that day. We must be fair to the HSE and the people administering the vaccine, and give a good broad reach of where we are in the delivery of the programme. That would create the hope.
Young people need to get out and meet each other. They are returning to schools. The pod environment worked for us when we opened up last year and I think we need to go back to children going back to their outdoor sports in pods of 15, as well as golf and tennis. On my way here today, I heard something interesting which I think related to Dublin and I think Senators Bacik and Currie referred to it. Parks in certain areas are crowded. It is coming up to Easter and we need to think about freeing up parts of towns or cities where there is no traffic so that people can walk and get out in comfort. As Senator Dooley said, we do not want them going to all the hot spots at the same time but we need to give some flexibility. Hopefully that can be recognised with whatever NPHET presents and what the health sub-committee brings to the Cabinet tomorrow morning. I hope that this discussion here today will be heard and recognised. The members of the Government are listening to their constituents and are also listening to the construction industry, retail and families, parents and children. There are strong voices calling for fairness and flexibility. We will continue to work with this House.