Seanad debates

Friday, 16 July 2021

Mandatory Hotel Quarantine Extension: Motion


9:30 am

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I will come back on some of those medical exemptions. The regulation, which is set out and available online, essentially states that urgent critical care is covered. If there are other areas Senator Warfield wants to talk to me about afterwards, I am more than happy to give him a view.

The Senator asked how the states are designated. Global analysis is carried out on a rolling basis of states all over the world. Two main criteria are used. One is variants of concern and whether they are detected. Many countries in which it is highly likely there are variants of concern do not have, for example, the whole genome-sequencing facilities that we have. The other is where there are very high incidence rates. They are the two main criteria. Essentially, I get a letter from the Chief Medical Officer laying out the current global situation and outlining what states he proposes are to be designated or dedesignated because states are coming off the list as well. That is how that works. If the Senator would like a more detailed note on that, I would be more than happy to get that for him.

I agree with the Senator fully in terms of the need for a global vaccine solution. I do not believe there is a silver bullet. Some very good analysis has been done looking at the supply chain right the way from raw ingredients, some of which are an issue, through to manufacturing, which is very complex.Ireland had a very significant amount of vaccine withheld from us because of manufacturing questions raised in the US by the Food and Drug Administration, FDA. Even in countries with highly sophisticated pharmaceutical manufacturing capability it does not always go right. Supply chains and logistics are also a concern. Some friends of mine working in developing nations are involved in this. One, who is looking at this in an African country, told me that due to the refrigeration and transport requirements for the mRNA vaccines which are quite delicate compounds, it would be very difficult to successfully and safely roll these things out. There are many issues.

I have been advised that waivers and various mechanisms are possible in terms of other countries manufacturing compounds that do not require broad IP waivers. I noted that President Biden called for it. I said in the Dáil that it was a good idea given the current situation. I am happy to repeat that again today. However, an IP waiver will not solve the problem. There is a whole supply chain that must be dealt with. I agree that we will be judged, and we should be judged, on whether or not we play our part as global citizens. The last information I saw showed that Europe as a region had exported more vaccines to other countries than any other part of the world. That is something we need to continue to push on.

I am very happy to provide a note on the costs of mandatory hotel quarantine. I spoke about active cases in my opening statement. There are 376 positive tests at this point.

I thank the Senators for their contributions and the House for its support. This is a bit like the debate we just had on the hospitality sector in that none of us wants to be here debating it. None of us wants to be in a world where we need mandatory hotel quarantine or where there are stipulations on what is safe or not safe to do in restaurants and pubs. It is one of the things that is necessary. Ireland has taken a leading role on mandatory hotel quarantine in Europe. We have the most comprehensive protections in place. If we look at its effectiveness against various variants, we were talking about variants in Brazil, South Africa and other places but they fell off dramatically once we introduced mandatory hotel quarantine so it has worked. We are seeing the damage that variants can do. I thank the House for what is again hopefully a temporary extension to the system to keep people safe while we reach higher levels of full vaccination which we need to achieve.


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