Yesterday was a critical day in our fight against Covid-19. The Taoiseach and I spoke yesterday afternoon as he considered the public health advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET. I am glad the Taoiseach also spoke to Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster about strengthening the all-Ireland approach. There is no doubt that the decision facing Government yesterday was hugely challenging. It has decided not to implement the NPHET recommendation to move to level 5 and instead we will move to level 3 from midnight tonight. The truth is that a move to level 5 now would have proven catastrophic for workers, families and businesses. I say this because the Government has cut the supports and protections that they need simply to survive and get by. I was very alarmed by the aggressive approach taken by the Tánaiste on RTÉ last night. Governments ask for advice and, when given advice, they should accept it with some level of maturity and grace and then make their decision. The NPHET recommendation comes against a backdrop of very high levels of community transmission and, critically, very low capacity within our health service. NPHET is worried and it is right to be worried. Listening to the Tánaiste last night, one would never think he had been Minister for Health, much less that he and his party had been leading Government for the past decade or, indeed, that he joined with the Taoiseach in cutting supports like the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, that people rely on.
The vulnerabilities that we now face are down to the Taoiseach and his partner in government, Deputy Varadkar. In 2009, we had 289 intensive care beds. More than a decade on, we have 280. We have fewer intensive care beds now than we had more than a decade ago. This represents a decade of failure from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. It is on them. Last night, as the Cabinet had come to its decision, there were only 39 adult intensive care beds available. That is the situation we face and it is a troubling one. Along with testing and tracing, capacity in our hospitals is perhaps the most important measure to protect us from going into very severe lockdowns. It is how we ensure that non-Covid care is not suspended again with the terrible impacts that has. It is how we will keep our schools, economy and society open during this pandemic. When we spoke yesterday, I asked the Taoiseach to provide assurances that we were winter ready, in other words, that we have the necessary supplies of personal protective equipment, PPE, testing kits, reagent, laboratory spaces and ventilators to deal with the second surge. He could not give me that assurance. I find that very worrying given the rate of infection in the community, the resurgence of the virus in nursing homes and the increase in people over the age of 65 contracting this virus.
It seems that the Government does not have its eye on the ball and does not have a grasp on what is needed to ensure people can live safely alongside the virus. This came across strongly in what the Tánaiste had to say last night. He expressed his concern about mental health, isolation and poverty. If the Government is really concerned about these things then take action next week in the budget.
Is the Taoiseach concerned at the lack of capacity in intensive care? Does he accept that we now need to urgently increase ICU capacity as we enter winter in this pandemic?