Ossian Smyth TD, called for the Minister of Health to prepare a road map out of the Covid-19 crisis. He also called for guidelines to be given on how to deliver standard mental health services for people by video call, and for Ireland to increase its funding to the World Health Organisation.

“More than ever before people around the country are suffering from mental health problems and I want to know if guidance has been provided to mental health services on how to deliver standard mental health services to people by video call. That’s both to protect the patients and the health care workers, and I understand that, that has happened in the UK already.

The Taoiseach told us today that there was no road map for how to exit from this crisis. But we need a road map, we need to know how to reopen the economy, we need to know how we’re going to get back to normal.

A road map has been published by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who’s former Commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration in America. He’s provided four steps starting from lockdown, which is the phase that we’re in now and lockdown seems to be working but we can’t stay there forever.

The second phase is where we start to relax restrictions. And we can only really do that when our testing is rapid, our contact tracing is comprehensive and our isolation is actually effective. There is a problem obviously, up to now and I know you’ve been working on this, that our testing has been far too slow. And the knock on effect is that the contact tracing afterwards is completely ineffective. If you come to somebody three or four weeks after they’ve shown symptoms, it’s too late then and the contact tracing simply hasn’t been working and I think you know that and you accept that.

There are thousands of unemployed people who would like to take part in the contact tracing effort, who have registered and who have heard nothing in return. I’d like the Minister to make a comment on that. And technology can help us. I want to know will the Minister support Google and Apple in their announcement that they want to cooperate to produce an App that can help with contact tracing on the basis that it respects privacy.

The third phase of a road map would be drug therapies or a vaccine. And its only at that stage, according to Dr. Gottlieb, that we can actually get away from social distancing. And that could take a year. And I think people need to know that and I think that’s something you need to say to people. It is at that point that people can return to normal life.

And the last phase, after doing all these things, is that we’re prepared, that we’re ready for the next pandemic. We’ve seen SARS. We’ve seen MERS. We’ve seen HIV, Ebola, HPV, Zika, Lassa, yellow fever and small pox. All in recent memory. It wouldn’t make sense for us to see Covid as some kind of strange outlier. We need to prepare our health system, our PPE, our medicines and so on for the next microbial pandemic after Covid. So I’m asking the Minister create a pandemic preparedness unit or a pandemic readiness unit within the Department.

Finally, I want to thank the Minister for your recent statement in support of the WHO as it comes under fire from the President of America. And that takes some courage As a gesture of solidarity and to show that we believe in science and medicine, I’m calling on the Minister to immediately increase our contribution to the WHO, to help in even a small way. And to fill the moral and financial a small way. And to fill the moral and financial vacuum, created by President Trump’s terrible action. Thank you.”

Ossian Smyth TD, speaking in the Dáil on the Covid-19 crisis
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