Written answers

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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490. To ask the Minister for Health the details regarding the proposed mandatory 14-day quarantine period for international travellers arriving here; the date by which this measure is intended to be introduced; the date by which the measure is to be reviewed; if the measure is applicable to travellers arriving from all destinations outside of the island of Ireland; and the possible end date for such a measure. [7580/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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NPHET has considered issues in relation to overseas travel, informed by World Health Organisation and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control guidance, approaches and learning from other countries, and reports of importation of cases in a number of countries following relaxation of restrictions.

As the number of indigenous cases here declines and Ireland eases some restrictions, the relative importance of the risk of importation of cases from overseas increases. The impact of any imported cases on disease spread would be all the greater in the context of easing of domestic restrictions and the resultant increased movement and contact between people. In addition, a significant increase in the number of cases in Ireland as a result of importation could have an impact on public compliance with public health guidance and restrictions. Ultimately, the progress towards suppression of community transmission which has been achieved and which should allow for greater resumption of social and economic life in Ireland could be endangered.

To date, Ireland has introduced a range of travel related measures including issuing advice against non-essential international travel on 13th March. As of 24th April, the public health advice for passengers arriving into the State from overseas is to self-isolate for 14 days.

From 28thMay, it will be a legal requirement for passengers arriving from overseas to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form. The information on the form may be used to assist our contact tracing teams.

My Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments, is also developing proposals to strengthen the 14 days self-isolation arrangements for travellers from overseas. These proposals will include possible enforcement measures. The issue of imposing mandatory quarantine for a 14 day period, to be considered as the situation evolves, was mentioned in the Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business.

It is intended that self-isolation arrangements would apply to passengers arriving from overseas, irrespective of the country from which they are travelling. Passengers transiting to another jurisdiction and who will not be residing in the State, including transiting to Northern Ireland, will be exempt. Any mandatory arrangements would be kept under regular review.

There is ongoing close engagement at political and official levels between my Department and the authorities in both Northern Ireland and the UK. These close contacts will continue over the coming weeks.

Complimentary measures applying to international travel, such as temperature testing at airports, will remain under consideration but are not envisaged at this time.

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
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491. To ask the Minister for Health when employees that are cocooning may be advised to return to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7584/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,

e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.

On 9 May the “Return to Work Safely Protocol - COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers” was published. It provides clear guidance to employers and to workers on the measures that must be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The Protocol was developed through the cooperation of the Health and Safety Authority, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the HSE and my Department. It is designed to be used by all workplaces to adapt their procedures and practices to provide protection against the threat of COVID-19.

In relation to vulnerable or at risk workers the Protocol advises that if an at risk or vulnerable worker cannot work from home and must be in the workplace, employers must make sure that they are preferentially supported to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres. However, employers should enable vulnerable workers to work from home where possible.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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492. To ask the Minister for Health the reason Ireland is enforcing a 2 m social distancing limit for restaurants, cafés, pubs and so on while reopening in view of the fact the World Health Organization suggest a 1.5 m distance and many European countries such as France and Italy are able to proceed with only 1 m distancing between consumers and Germany and Norway are enforcing 1.5 m distancing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7723/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,

e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

While the evidence relating to the SARS-CoV-2 virus is evolving, it is clear now that the risks of transmission of any respiratory pathogens such as the type that causes Covid-19 are lessened when greater distance is maintained between people. This evidence is kept under review by the National Public Health Emergency Team on a continuing basis.

As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.

Guidance in relation to specific sectors of the economy should in the first instance be sought from the Government Department with responsibility for that sector.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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493. To ask the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the UK Government has recently announced it is making travel from Ireland exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirement after travelling by air; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7823/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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NPHET has considered issues in relation to overseas travel, informed by World Health Organisation and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control guidance, approaches and learning from other countries, and reports of importation of cases in a number of countries following relaxation of restrictions.

As the number of indigenous cases here declines and Ireland eases some restrictions, the relative importance of the risk of importation of cases from overseas increases. The impact of any imported cases on disease spread would be all the greater in the context of easing of domestic restrictions and the resultant increased movement and contact between people. In addition, a significant increase in the number of cases in Ireland as a result of importation could have an impact on public compliance with public health guidance and restrictions. Ultimately, the progress towards suppression of community transmission which has been achieved and which should allow for greater resumption of social and economic life in Ireland could be endangered.

To date, Ireland has introduced a range of travel related measures including issuing advice against non-essential international travel on 13th March. As of 24th April, the public health advice for passengers arriving into the State from overseas is to self-isolate for 14 days.

From 28thMay, it will be a legal requirement for passengers arriving from overseas to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form. The information on the form may be used to assist our contact tracing teams.

My Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments, is also developing proposals to strengthen the 14 days self-isolation arrangements for travellers from overseas. These proposals will include possible enforcement measures. The issue of imposing mandatory quarantine for a 14 day period, to be considered as the situation evolves, was mentioned in the Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business.

It is intended that self-isolation arrangements would apply to passengers arriving from overseas, irrespective of the country from which they are travelling. Passengers transiting to another jurisdiction and who will not be residing in the State, including transiting to Northern Ireland, will be exempt. Any mandatory arrangements would be kept under regular review.

There is ongoing close engagement at political and official levels between my Department and the authorities in both Northern Ireland and the UK. These close contacts will continue over the coming weeks.

Complimentary measures applying to international travel, such as temperature testing at airports, will remain under consideration but are not envisaged at this time.

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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494. To ask the Minister for Health when an organisation (details supplied) will be able to reopen in line with the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7843/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups.

An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.

Guidance in relation to specific sectors of the economy should in the first instance be sought from the Government Department with responsibility for that sector.

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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495. To ask the Minister for Health the stage of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business during which busking can reconvene in public spaces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7854/20]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,

e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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496. To ask the Minister for Health if the restrictions that will be necessary in order that weddings can proceed, for example, the number, social distancing and so on will be clarified in view of the fact that between 20 May and the end of 2020 there are close to 15,000 weddings planned here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7871/20]

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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498. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to publish guidelines for those organising weddings in the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7920/20]

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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500. To ask the Minister for Health if advice will be provided for couples planning a wedding in September and October 2020 in view of the publication of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Businesses as a result of Covid-19; the number of guests that will be permitted at that stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8049/20]

Photo of Joe O'BrienJoe O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Green Party)
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539. To ask the Minister for Health if social gatherings specifically weddings are permitted to proceed as normal from 10 August 2020 as outlined in phase 5 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7425/20]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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541. To ask the Minister for Health the number of persons that constitute a small wedding; the number of persons that constitute a large wedding under the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; the social distancing rules that apply to a large wedding in view of the uncertainty in relation to persons wishing to marry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7430/20]

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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610. To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide clarification in respect of the number of attendees allowed at weddings held after phase 5 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business in which it states some larger social gatherings can take place, for example, weddings, these will be restricted due to the risks involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8033/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 496, 498, 500, 539, 541 and 610 together.

The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,

e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.

My Department will not be providing detailed guidance in relation to weddings.

Guidance in relation to events in specific sectors of the economy should in the first instance be sought from the Government Department with responsibility for that sector.

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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497. To ask the Minister for Health when nail technicians who work from home will be able to reopen their businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7892/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,

e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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499. To ask the Minister for Health if beauty salons are included in the businesses that are scheduled to reopen on 20 July 2020; if there will be restrictions on the type of skincare treatments that can be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7923/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,

e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.

Guidance in relation to business activities in specific sectors of the economy should in the first instance be sought from the Government Department with responsibility for that sector.

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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501. To ask the Minister for Health the phase in which psychotherapy practices will able to reopen in accordance with the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8053/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 (SI No. 121 of 2020) were signed by the Minister for Health on 7 April 2020.

Schedule 2 of the Regulations sets out essential services that are exempted from the restrictions and therefore can continue to be provided. This includes (at 15(b)) psychotherapy services as these services are provided by a member of a designated profession within the meaning of section 3 of the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (No. 27 of 2005).

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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503. To ask the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to ensure the provision of PPE for dental practices and financing the structural changes required to comply with new Dental Council guidelines. [7050/20]

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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522. To ask the Minister for Health if he will work with the Ministers for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Finance and Employment Affairs and Social Protection to formulate an action plan to safeguard the future of the dental profession and introduce measures (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7149/20]

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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534. To ask the Minister for Health the supports being put in place for dentists; if the HSE will provide appropriate PPE for all dentists, including those that are treating adults; if he has considered the financial issues that apply at present for dentists that cannot trade and may not be in a position to operate in the coming weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7349/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 503, 522 and 534 together.

The necessary legislative amendments have now been made and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has worked with the dental profession and in particular the Dental Council, to provide revised guidance for the profession to allow for the resumption of the safe provision of routine care. This is in line with Phase 1 of the Government's Plan for the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, from 18 May.

The Government has put in place a suite of measures to support small, medium and larger businesses that are negatively impacted by COVID-19 including a Restart grant for which application can be made on line to local authorities. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has published a Return to Work Safely Protocol, which is designed to support employers and workers to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The Health and Safety Authority also provides information and advice for employers and employees in this regard.

A national approach to the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the Public Dental Service of the HSE has been initiated. Dentists contracted by the HSE under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme can apply to the HSE for PPE. Additional PPE, above the normal PPE used in dentistry, may currently be required in certain instances depending on the occupational risk assessment of the dentist. However, the Dental Council is deliberating further on this and definitive clarification is awaited as to if and when such PPE may be required.

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