I want to raise the Taoiseach's announcement yesterday of the extension of level 5 restrictions. January has proved to be the most deadly month of this pandemic and, naturally, people are anxious, fearful and worried for the future. Families have been bereaved, people are sick and people's lives are on hold. Indeed, there are many who have not seen a day's work in almost a year. Businesses are to the pin of their collar in a struggle for survival. People feel the burden of this crisis like never before and so yesterday all looked to Government to deliver a clear and concrete plan of action and to indicate that it had a handle on this crisis. Instead, we got a Government that is clearly at sixes and sevens with no idea of how to proceed beyond 5 March. We got a Government that has yet again failed to prepare, failed to consult and failed to plan. Instead of a real plan, the Government has presented half measures that do not go far enough. At the Government press conference, contradiction and confusion between Ministers was rife and clarity and certainty were in scarce supply. This absence of urgency, leadership and plain common sense has caused huge alarm for many people.
One group that is particularly distressed is this year's leaving certificate students. They are under enormous pressure. They need to know what is happening now. They have made their position clear: they want fairness, choice and an alternative method of assessment alongside the option of the traditional exam. It is time for the Taoiseach and the Minister for Education to make absolutely clear that they will facilitate this choice for those students and give them the clarity they need.
The biggest mess from the Government's announcement yesterday is undoubtedly its proposal on international travel. What it announced not alone goes against public health advice; it goes against common sense. It is not a system of mandatory quarantine; it is, in fact, one of voluntary self-isolation. The Government proposes to send people back to homes and other accommodation with other people who may be going to work and who will go into shops and stores and, therefore, risk the spreading of this virus. That is absolutely crazy. People were shocked by the footage on the television last night of people returning home from places like Lanzarote. That was clearly non-essential travel yet the Government's proposal places all hope in people's discretion to self-isolate.
The plan is also unenforceable and, listening to representatives of An Garda Síochána this morning saying the Government has failed to consult with them, there was an echo of all the Government's previous behaviour. They are in disbelief at what has been announced. This half measure plan will not work. It will also, the Taoiseach tells us, take weeks, if not months, to implement. Overall, it leaves people on our island exposed. The right measure is a system of complete and universal mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers onto our island. That is the only thing that stands a chance of helping us achieve the maximum suppression of this virus. This, of course, has to happen as part of an all-island approach that ensures no airport and no port on this island is left without the protection we need to stop the importation of this virus and any new variant. Decisive action like that would say clearly to our people and people beyond that this Government means business when it comes to protecting our people. I ask the Taoiseach to turn away from the half measure he announced yesterday and to implement a proper quarantine regime.