Restrictions changes bring more ‘confusion and chaos’, says Murphy

Martin defends anomalies between sectors as TD criticises lack of planning for nightclubs

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said there was a failure to act on the fact that Covid-19 was an airborne virus. Photograph: Alan Betson

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said there was a failure to act on the fact that Covid-19 was an airborne virus. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has rejected claims that the Government’s announcements around relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions represented more “confusion, incoherence and chaos”.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said there was a failure to plan for the opening of businesses in the entertainment sector but Mr Martin dismissed her claim and said the Opposition was “always trying to pick holes”.

He said that two weeks ago “this was not on the horizon”. The Taoiseach added that “the case numbers have taken a turn for the worse and we have to respond”.

He said: “The key point is this, that anything we’ve reopened has stayed open so far.”

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Ms Murphy said nightclubs and music venues “are going to get advice at the last possible moment when they should have been given advice on ventilation months ago”.

She said there had been “almost zero planning”.

Speaking following the announcement that clubs and music venues would get sector specific advice in the coming days, when they were due to open on Friday, she said that nightclubs had been told that “you can dance but you can’t go to the bar for a drink”.

She suggested that “you can probably dance to the bar”.

She said there was a failure to act on the fact that Covid-19 was an airborne virus. Public health campaigns focus on telling people to wash their hands and not informing them about the virus being airborne, she said.

Ms Murphy also said there had been a failure to plan in the provision of more intensive care unit (ICU) beds.

But accusing the Opposition of “always trying to pick holes”, Mr Martin acknowledged that it was frustrating dealing with the virus but Covid-19 did not respect Government’s “weekly decision-making” meetings.

He insisted the key point was that any business the Government had allowed to reopen had stayed open.

“It’s better to try and proceed with reopening albeit with restrictions that people will find frustrating”.

Mr Martin said he accepted there were anomalies in the plan between different restrictions but this arises in these scenarios.

He added that advice had been given on ventilation, documents had been prepared and issued and in the case of schools CO2 monitors were sent to all premises.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Government of failing to properly invest in the health service.

She said the State was vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 because of the lack of hospital bed capacity, adding that there would be no increase in beds for the rest of this year and 2022.

This kind of investment had to be a key priority in the Government’s efforts to respond to the pandemic.

Mr Martin said there would be an increase of 900 hospital beds and the number of ICU beds had risen from 255 to 321 which was not just a question of beds but of the entire teams needed for each one.

He also said the booster vaccination campaign would have an impact on Covid-19.