Written answers

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Johnny Mythen (Wexford, Sinn Fein)
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246. To ask the Minister for Health the policy for the communication of extension of Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10602/21]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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In line with best practice international advice and guidance provided by the WHO and the ECDC, communications has been a cornerstone of the Department of Health and wider Government’s response to COVID-19 from the outset of this pandemic.

While vaccines are being rolled out across the country, the most effective protection from COVID-19 remains the public health measures which asks us to stay and work at home where possible, social distancing, knowing the symptoms, cough/sneeze etiquette, wearing a face covering in shops and on public transport, and self-isolating and getting a test at the first sign of being unwell.

These safe behaviours are the bedrock of my Department and the HSE’s communications programmes. Over the last number of months, my Department and the HSE have, in close collaboration, developed numerous public health information campaigns that covering these behaviours in depth, for radio, TV, digital and print media.

In addition to this, the Department of Health has held press briefings from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to ensure that experts in public health are to the fore when informing the public about the disease’s pattern and progression within Ireland and the restrictions required at any given time to prevent the spread of the disease. This gives journalists from a broad cross section of the media the opportunity to ask key figures such as the Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Chief Medical Officer questions on a regular and consistent basis, in order to counter the potential spread of misinformation.

In a media relations sense, representatives of the NPHET are also regularly available for media interview across all major media outlets such as RTE, Newstalk and Virgin Media News, to answer questions and provide responses to any concerns posed to them by media or the general public in relation to the pandemic and Ireland’s response to it.

In terms of online resources, each daily press release issued by the Department of Health, specific links are provided to the COVID-19 dashboard, where detailed information on the spread of COVID-19 and key indicators in the community are available. This includes information such as the number of hospitalisations, ICU figures, tests carried out, and information on case numbers given at LEA level.

Consistently, the Department of Health has directed followers on social media to official sources of information, such as the Government website, the COVID-19 Data Hub and the HSE’s website. The HSE also undertakes considerable social media advertising campaigns in order to promote public health guidelines and advice across platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

All of this work is supported by regular opinion polling carried out by Amárach. This is published weekly on my Department’s website and shows the commitment to assessing how the general public are feeling, not only about the COVID-19 measures, but on a range of issues related to the pandemic.

Underpinning all of the above activity (in terms of advertising, media relations, digital communications, research and online resources) is the consistent yellow look and feel of the Department of Health and HSE public health advice. The distinctive yellow posters and public health logos were a strategic choice. This branding has become synonymous with trusted public health advice and has been consistently used across all of the above crucial communications work.

Johnny Mythen (Wexford, Sinn Fein)
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247. To ask the Minister for Health the consultation that was carried out with psychologists and other mental health professionals to develop a communications policy for Covid-19 and the delivery of Covid-19 restriction extensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10603/21]

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

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