• April 2, 2022

Coronavirus pandemic emergency powers were introduced in the 26 Counties  in March 2020 and extended until 31 March 2022. This Bill gave the Minister for Health powers to make regulations to deal with the manifest risk to human life and public health posed by the spread of Covid-19′. This Bill was not extended on the 31/03/2022.

Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said he did not believe making it mandatory to wear face masks indoors would change Ireland’s current Covid-19 situation. At the time some 56,000 positive PCR and 74,000 lateral flow tests were recorded in the previous seven days. Most of the restrictions had been dropped but people are still advised (not mandated) to wear face masks on public transport and in healthcare settings.

Statements from health bodies called on the Irish government to reintroduce some measures. The Irish Association of Emergency Medicine said emergency departments were “not in a position to cope”. Its President, Dr Fergal Hickey said there were large numbers of patients in hospital with the virus and “we have large numbers of people on trolleys”.

According to sources within the National Ambulance Service. The paramedics can only unload a patient at a hospital when a bed is available for them. This has caused massive delays within the service, given the scarcity of beds. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said  that 532 patients were waiting for beds. They called for mandatory mask wearing in hospitals. Another element of the pressure on the system stems from staff members who are unavailable for work due to either being close contacts of those with Covid or getting Covid symptoms themselves. The situation in our hospitals is chaotic. Hospital staff are suffering an increase in assaults from angry patients as the Covid-19 wave has triggered unprecedented delays creating dangerous conditions, doctors and nurses warned today (01/04/2022). The WHO said the Covid restrictions had been brutally removed.

However, urgent new restrictions have been announced for Leinster House(Dáil and Senate) amid growing concern about Covid-19. A letter sent to TDs and Senators  detailed the major changes which have been introduced until the Easter break to “protect each other from the highly transmissible airborne variant”. Leo Varadkar (Tanáiste) stated that  the measures have been put in place “to prove a safe workplace for everyone in the Parliamentary Community”.

The letter explains: “With the increase in positive Covid-19 cases across society (including in the Houses of the Oireachtas) we are taking additional measures until the Easter recess to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection in the Leinster House complex and ensure that we can continue to deliver essential services to the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

Among the measures are restrictions on visitor numbers in the Dáil bar and a requirement to wear a face mask with numbers restricted to 20. “…all visitors should be advised of our Covid-19 preventative measures.” This makes the Dáil bar the first in Ireland to reimpose Covid rules on face masks and visitor numbers. 

“We strongly advise and request everyone to resume wearing a mask in Leinster House to protect each other from the highly transmissible airborne variant. This includes the Seanad Chamber and Committee rooms,” the letter explains. Anyone visiting Leinster House has also been advised to “remain vigilant” and to “not come onsite” if they are feeling unwell.

The new Leinster House Covid rules came just days after Leo Varadkar made a pledge to the public that the Government would not reintroduce Covid restrictions. It seems however that politicians can introduce them for their own protection while ignoring calls to reintroduce them for the safety of health care workers and the public.

P.A. Bridson

International Branch Secretary Celtic League (2nd April 2022)

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