Taoiseach Micheál Martin renewed his appeal for international co-operation on vaccine supply as noted the involvement of numerous countries in the production of the Covid-19 injections.
Mr Martin told Labour leader Alan Kelly – who called for equity and fairness in the distribution of vaccines – that he had met pharmaceutical companies who all pointed to involvement of multiple countries in vaccination production.
The Taoiseach – who has previously warned against a ban on exports – said they could not undermine vaccine production. He added that the production of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine involved 280 components from 86 suppliers in 19 countries.
“Any interruption carries real risks to supply,” he said.
Mr Martin also insisted that no decisions had been made about what restrictions might be eased ahead of the April 5th deadline for review of the Level 5 lockdown.
He stressed that Ireland is the first European Union country to introduce mandatory quarantining. But Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald railed against the move as a “half-baked plan” and insisted that it should apply to arriving passengers from all countries engaged in non-essential travel.
Mr Martin was responding to opposition leaders during Dáil leaders’ questions and on the order of business.
Incoming passengers from 33 countries on the “Category 2” list will be required to quarantine for up to two weeks in a hotel, but the Taoiseach said more countries would be added to the list.
Ms McDonald said people are hoping for some relief to restrictions on April 5th. And they are “waiting to hear the Government’s plan as to what lies ahead. But instead of clear communication and strong leadership what we have found throughout this crisis is mixed messages and kite-flying.”
She said there is a “failure to adequately ramp up testing and tracing” and “an absolute carte blanche” given to meat factories but the “refusal to deal with the issue of international travel” was top of the list.
People could not go more than 5km from their home “but have to watch as up to 10,000 people arrived here from abroad, many of which are not essential trips”.
Stressing that Ireland is the first EU member state to introduce mandatory hotel quarantining, he warned that the situation in relation to the virus is very fragile. But Level 5 restrictions had been effective in significantly reducing the number of cases of the Covid-19 virus from where they were a number of weeks ago.
And he accused the Opposition of “blurring the facts” and blamed them for mixed messaging. He warned of the increasing dominance of variants of Covid-19.
Mr Martin said cases remained very high and increased mobility facilitates spread of those variants of concern. He recognised people’s huge frustration and stress but said they had to avoid a situation where there could be 2,000 people in hospital as cases are rising across the EU.
Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae called for the Government to allow more people to attend religious services, especially cathedrals and big churches which had the capacity to take a larger congregation and said that the Government had to trust people to act appropriately.
He also called for reopening of the construction industry, “otherwise we will lose all our workers to England”.
Mr Martin said he accepted the sincerity of Mr Healy-Rae’s request about religious services. “It’s the one aspect of Covid that hits people hardest that they can’t attend the funeral of a loved one.”
The Government would be looking at the issue of attending Mass and religious services but he said he could give “no guarantees”.
Mr Martin agreed with Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore who raised concerns about vaccine nationalism. She said "we will not defeat Covid until every country in the world is free from Covid" as she called on the Taoiseach to push at Thursday's meeting of EU leaders to puts for every country to have access to vaccination.