Richard Boyd Barrett TD Urges Dáil To Establish Second Covid Committee

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Richard Boyd Barrett TD urges Dáil to establish second Covid committee as a matter of urgency to deal with all the huge backlog of issues and wider social and economic impacts of the crisis

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has written to the Dáil Business Committee with detailed proposal for a second Covid Committee to deal with the huge backlog of issues because of the pandemic.

The Dún Laoghaire TD urged the Business Committee, of which he is a member, to establish this new committee as a matter of urgency.

He said a second committee was much needed to deal with downstream impacts of Covid-19 and particularly the hardships being suffered by many groups of workers and vulnerable groups in our society.

Deputy Boyd Barrett expressed extreme frustration and disappointment at what he said was the stubborn resistance of bigger parties to establish a second Dáil Committee to deal with the many pressing and urgent concerns of the vulnerable groups impacted by the crisis.

Notes-

Letter from Richard Boyd Barrett TD to Sub Group of Business Committee:

Proposal to Sub-Group of Business Committee on Committees in response to Covid crisis

Richard Boyd Barrett on behalf of People Before Profit

I propose, as a matter of urgency, the business committee establish immediately a second special committee to deal with the downstream social and economic impacts of Covid19

The rationale for establishing a second special committee to deal with the impact of Covid19 is as follows:

  1. Covid has affected every single sector of our society and aspect of our lives.
  2. The most immediate and urgent impact is the threat to life and public health and public health measures and health service capacities needed to protect life and public health and the governance of that public health response.

Before any other downstream economic, social and societal impacts are considered a committee is needed to focus in detail on the immediate medical and scientific issues that arise from Covid19, public health measures needed to respond to the crisis and the governance of this effort from NPHET, DoH, HSE and government.

This committee must consider in detail and urgently the following issues:

(a)    The high number of deaths in nursing homes and related issues. (Although 2 sessions have already taken place on this subject, committee members have already made clear that further investigation of this issue are needed)

(b)   Infection rates among health care workers, and supporting and protecting these workers

(c)    Ensuring the necessary capacity and staffing exists in our health service to deal with Covid19, possible future spikes and non-Covid care

(d)   The public and private hospitals and the future relationship of public and private healthcare

(e)    Ensuring secure and affordable supplies of PPE and medical equipment

(f)     Research and trials in vaccines and therapies – progress and funding. (Incredibly, though success in the development of an effective vaccine or therapy would completely transform the entire situation, there has been NO discussion of this matter in the Dáil , or in the Covid committee and very little in the public media)

(g)    Testing (rapid testing, antibody testing, sero-prevalence testing) and contact tracing – there has been little detailed discussion of this critical issue, which has the potential to transform the current situation. It is critically important to hear from the scientists, researchers and experts in this area, and to examine how we establish permanent capacity in both testing and tracing.

(h)   Governance and coordination of the public health response between government DoH, HSE, NPHET, NPHET subgroups, frontline services and providers.  The need for a detailed review of this is self-evident. The role of the Expert Advisory Group and other subgroups of NPHET has not been examined at all.

(i)     Public Health guidelines and the application and lifting of restrictions – the overall picture and a sector by sector roadmap for restrictions, social distancing and enforcement in direct provision, childcare, education, the Dáil, pubs, live entertainment venues etc.

(j)     An examination of the international experience of Covid 19 its evolution and the lessons.  Covid19 is a global pandemic, we need to learn from that international experience and engage with the global and international health authorities such as WHO ECDC, South Korea etc.

(k)    Any specific legislation related to Covid19 in the area of health and public health restrictions

Consideration of the above list is far from exhaustive but makes clear that before any other down-stream financial, economic, social impacts can be looked at there is a huge volume of detailed and urgent work that needs to be done by a focussed Covid committee.  It seems obvious that the existing committee should do this work and completing such work would take a considerable period.

What would a second committee do?

Beyond the issues mentioned above there is a vast number of sectors and stakeholders very seriously impacted by the Covid19 crisis that need specific attention and support and where the Dáil needs to hear from the stake holders.  These include

  1. Mental health impacts of lockdown and social distancing
  2. The impact of Covid 19 on children
  3. The impact on people with disabilities and special needs.
  4. Income and other support for sectors particularly affected by the crisis
    1. Retail workers and SMEs
    2. Taxi drivers and public transport
    3. Arts, music and live entertainment
    4. Tourism and hospitality
    5. The future of education in the era of Covid19
    6. The financial and economic position of the state and future economic strategy
    7. The impact on rural Ireland and agriculture.

It should be noted in relation to the above, that the government is proposing changes to the PUP and the TWSS over the next few weeks – changes which could have a very serious impact on vast numbers of people. It would be unthinkable that such changes would be made without detailed discussion as laid out above, and hearing from the many stakeholders and groups that could be affected.

Again, the above is not an exhaustive list, but clearly demonstrates the need to urgently establish at least one additional committee to address the downstream social and economic issues arising from Covid19 crisis.

Finally, I would remind the committee that in normal times there would be at least 20 Oireachtas committees functioning to deal with the multiple sectors in our society.  It is simply not possible for a single committee to substitute the necessary scrutiny of all these sectors of our society.  As an absolute minimum we urgently need an additional committee to deal with the issues that the existing Covid committee is clearly unable to reach considering all the urgent issues it is dealing with.