Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (778, 779, 780)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

778. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the scientific data underpinning the restrictions on and closure of a sector (details supplied). [37835/20]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

779. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the incidence of Covid-19 caused by the operation of a sector (details supplied). [37836/20]

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Louise O'Reilly

Question:

780. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health if there are bespoke plans for a sector (details supplied) when Ireland egresses from the level 5 public health restrictions. [37837/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 778 to 780, inclusive, together.

As you will be aware, Ireland has moved to level 5 of the Government’s medium-term strategy for dealing with COVID-19, Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19. This Plan sets out Ireland's approach to managing and living with COVID-19 in a range of areas over the next 6 - 9 months.

This 5 level Framework reflects a careful consideration of the impact of the introduction of restrictions on employment and livelihoods, keeping as many businesses open as possible at different stages, while acknowledging that some businesses and services are critical. It acknowledges that pubs and the hospitality sector are the world of work for so many in our communities.

As I'm sure you can appreciate, COVID-19 spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. COVID-19 is infectious in a person with no symptoms, or for the period of time before they develop symptoms. The number of people allowed to gather in different scenarios in the Government's Framework are based on a review of international practice and the judgment of public health experts. It seeks to balance the risks of different types of gatherings against the desire to allow normal activities to proceed in so far as possible. The Government is committed to ensuring a balanced and proportionate response to COVID-19 by finding ways to implement public health measures in response to the pandemic in a way that is fair, reasonable and proportionate.

At level 5 of the Plan, in order to reduce the person-to-person contacts which allow the virus to spread, wet pubs must remain closed, with take-away food and drink only, or delivery. I would like to assure you that measures such as this are aimed at limiting the spread and damage of COVID-19, and are necessary to protect our key priorities of supporting and maintaining health and social care services, keeping education and childcare services open and protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities.

You may wish to note that the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) has recently published its advice for the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on the settings and activities which are associated with a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. The publication of this advice is accompanied by a supporting evidence synthesis report which examined data from international sources and found that indoor, high occupancy, poorly ventilated environments, where there is shouting and singing, insufficient use of face coverings, and prolonged contact, present an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. These findings support the NPHET’s current stance on settings, such as pubs, and activities such as drinking, which present a higher risk of transmission of Covid-19. HIQA's advice to the NPHET, Evidence Summary and supporting documentation is available at the following link:- https://www.hiqa.ie/reports-and-publications/health-technology-assessment/activities-or-settings-associated-higher-risk

I would also draw your attention to the CSO website for access to a range of data relating to Covid-19 including data on confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to pubs and the hospitality sector. This is available on the CSO Covid-19 Information Hub at www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-covid19/covid-19informationhub/ and, in particular, at https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/br/b-cdc/covid-19deathsandcasesseries16/

A range of data on the epidemiology of Covid-19 in Ireland, including data on trends in transmission, is also published in the daily report by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) available at: www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/casesinireland/epidemiologyofcovid-19inireland, while a daily report on the last 14 days in cases available at: www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/casesinireland/epidemiologyofcovid-19inireland.

Further information on all levels of Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 is available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/resilience-recovery-2020-2021-plan-for-living-with-covid-19/