Government adopts Labour view on easing of restrictions but no plan to re-open healthcare system
Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly TD, has welcomed the Government’s decision to take on the Labour Party’s call to reduce the easing of restrictions from five phases to four but failed to provide details on reopening the healthcare system, and the cut to Covid-19 payments will discriminate against young people.
Deputy Kelly said:
“The last twelve weeks have been a trying time for the Irish people. Having to stay home, put aspects of our lives on hold and not see those nearest and dearest has not been easy but has proved the true resilience of the Irish people.
“I have been calling for the early phasing out of many of the restrictions announced by the Taoiseach today particularly extending the numbers allowed at funerals, the distance people can now travel and that more retail outlets can begin to make plans to open again.
“I have been saying for weeks that the people have been ahead of the Government when it comes to the roadmap so it is welcome that the Government have reduced the roadmap from five phases to four. What we were looking at when the Government set out the five phases was different from what we are looking at now. Things have moved. We now know that we have to live with this virus for a considerable period. We cannot put everything into hibernation, including society, the economy, and particularly secondary healthcare.
“The re-opening of our domestic tourism will bring a huge amount of relief to many communities right across Ireland. Irish people deserve a summer after this bruising exercise. We must do all that we can to encourage and enable people to enjoy all this country has to offer in the coming months in order to help boost local economies.
“While the fast-tracking of opening up retail outlets is welcome, many businesses still don’t know how they will be able to operate once they are allowed to open again. More guidance needs to be provided for businesses particularly around the two metre versus one metre rule. It’s time for Government and indeed NPHET to take advice from industry experts to configure how all of this is going to work safely.
“I am extremely disappointed with the Government deciding to cut the rate of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for part-time workers. Some 135,000 people between the ages of 18 and 24 are on the Covid payment, many of them working in very low-paying sectors such as hospitality, tourism and retail. This decision is going to disproportionately impact on young people who would have been moving to full-time work throughout the summer months.
“We need to have a serious conversation about the issues that will arise from cutting this payment – people who are on this payment who were struggling to make ends meet and pay rent are going to find it even more difficult now. Rent debt is a very serious issue that this Government does not seem to be taking stock of.
“We also need to see the plan for the reopening of the health service that has been promised long before we entered phase one. The Government made a political decision in the last week not to renew the contract with the private hospitals, and it made a political decision not to look at purchasing them. The political consequence of that is that we are going to have huge backlogs, increased morbidity and increased mortality. Getting out health service back up and running is the most important thing we can do now and should be of huge focus for the Government.
“Adapting our public health service to our ‘new normal’ must take precedence now in the coming days as the Government finalise the details around opening up of society.”