Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Department of Health
As the Deputy is aware, the situation regarding COVID-19 has been, and continues to be, an evolving situation. COVID-19 is still having a major impact both here in Ireland and elsewhere.
On Tuesday 15 September the Government published ‘Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19’. This Plan outlines our medium-term strategy for COVID-19 and sets out a Framework of 5 Levels which outline the broad measures which will apply depending on the level of the virus at any given time. It will be possible for different regions and counties to be at different levels, depending on prevailing epidemiological situation. The Plan is designed to help everyone – individuals, organisations and sectors – to better understand, anticipate and prepare for the measures that might be introduced to contain transmission of the virus. The intention is that Departments and sectors will provide guidance for specific sectors and activities in line with the 5 level framework.
At Level 5 of the Plan, only essential retail outlets and essential services are allowed to open to the public. The list of essential services that can remain open during Level 5 includes therapy services 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). There are seventeen professions designated under the 2005 Act, which are encompassed in the list of essential services. These are: Dietitians, Dispensing Opticians, Medical Scientists, Occupational Therapists, Optometrists, Physiotherapists (which includes Physical Therapists), Radiographers, Radiation Therapists, Social Workers, Speech and Language Therapists, Clinical Biochemists, Counsellors, Orthoptists, Podiatrists, Psychologists, Psychotherapists and Social Care Workers.
The public health advice relating to Covid-19 is kept under continuing review by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and it provides advice to Government in line with the current epidemiological position. The latest public health advice on these matters is available at the links below and is updated on a regular basis:
177. To ask the Minister for Health if plans and guidelines are being drafted regarding the selling of Christmas trees under the different public health restriction levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37252/20]
Firstly, I would like to assure you that the Government is committed to ensuring a balanced and proportionate response to COVID-19 by finding ways to implement public health measures in response to the pandemic in a way that is fair, reasonable and proportionate.
As you will be aware, in response to the rapidly deteriorating epidemiological situation across the country, Ireland has moved to level 5 of the Government’s medium-term strategy for dealing with COVID-19, Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19
This 5 level Framework reflects a careful consideration of the impact of the introduction of restrictions on employment and livelihoods, keeping as many businesses open as possible at different stages, while acknowledging that some businesses and services are critical.
Any measures introduced at any level of the Plan are aimed at limiting the spread and damage of COVID-19, and are necessary to protect our key priorities of supporting and maintaining health and social care services, keeping education and childcare services open and protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities.
As I'm sure you can appreciate, COVID-19 spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. COVID-19 is infectious in a person with no symptoms, or for the period of time before they develop symptoms. The number of people allowed to gather in different scenarios in the Government's Framework are based on a review of international practice and the judgment of public health experts. It seeks to balance the risks of different types of gatherings against the desire to allow normal activities to proceed in so far as possible.
At level 5 of the Plan, unfortunately, this means closing many businesses and amenities to reduce the person-to-person contacts which allow the virus to spread. At Level 5 essential retail and essential services will remain open. Further information on essential retail and essential services at Level 5 can be found at:
Level 5 does not restrict people from purchasing any products. It does however, restrict people from physically going into non-essential stores. This is to stop people travelling out of their homes unnecessarily and so to limit the spread of the virus.
While Christmas trees cannot be purchased physically in stores, customers can continue to purchase them via online or phone ordering and collection and delivery.
Further information on all levels of Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 is available at: ttps://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/resilience-recovery-2020-2021-plan-for-living-with-covid-19/.
The Deputy may wish to note that the cultivation of Christmas trees is a matter that comes under the remit of the Minister for Agriculture Food and Marine.