Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice believes that swift and decisive action is required in the interest of the entire country regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.
Speaking on the matter, he said: “Yesterday was one of the most unusual in this country’s history. Given that it was Mothers’ Day, people had to refrain from celebrating it as they normally would have in the past.
“Many had to phone, skype or message their loved ones to make sure that they were okay, because it represents too much of a risk to have a normal social gathering.
“But by taking these precautions now, it could be the difference in getting to hug and be with your loved ones in the future. A sacrifice now represents a significant benefit down the line.
“It is imperative that everyone follows the advice on tackling this virus. We have to adhere to social/physical distancing guidelines, wash our hands regularly and minimise our contact with elderly or vulnerable people who may have underlying health issues.
“Elderly and vulnerable people need to be particularly careful and should take the necessary steps to self-isolate during these uncertain times.
“People must restrict their movements; this is not a holiday. All non-essential travel must be restricted. People who have chosen to congregate in parks and such over the last few days need to reconsider their actions moving forward.
“It is sickening to see people not adhering to the advice regarding social/physical distancing and if this continues, then more stringent measures will have to be implemented.”
Continuing, Fitzmaurice added: “I want to commend the frontline staff who are doing their utmost to diagnose and treat people with the virus. The doctors, nurses, student nurses and doctors, admin staff, caterers and cleaners in all of our hospitals and medical facilities are heroes.
“Other people can also play a significant role in combatting the spread of this virus; by acting responsibly.
“Everyone, both young and old, needs to recognise the impact their actions might have on both their own personal health – but also on the health of their loved ones.”
‘Nip it in the bud’
Fitzmaurice is of the opinion that preventive measures at Government level need to be stepped up to ‘nip this virus in the bud’.
He noted: “It is alarming that in media reports yesterday, consultants expressed fear that there may not be sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the country for health care staff. Clarification is also required on the amount of testing equipment on hand.
“Also, it is alarming to see that there are 40,000 plus people who are waiting on tests at the moment.
“From what the Taoiseach has stated, this is the calm before the storm and we must ask ourselves now what can we do to nip this plague in the bud?
“It is my opinion that we need to take proactive steps to eliminate the threat by reducing non-essential services as much as possible. Each sector needs to be evaluated and any non-essential operations must be halted temporarily.
“We also need to limit the need for people to congregate in the country in order to reduce the likelihood of community transmission.
“This could be implemented for a period of 2 weeks and would be reviewed thereafter.
“Obviously access to medical services such as hospitals, GP clinics, nursing homes, chemists and primary care centers etc would still be available. Factories involved in the production of essential medical equipment, including ventilators, must remain in operation.
“Services required to maintain the ‘Farm to Fork’ supply chain would continue. Supermarkets and food-supplying shops would remain open, and fuel would continue to be delivered. The haulage sector has a huge role to play in keeping the country running, now more so than ever.
“Skeleton staffing could be employed to ensure water, electricity, oil and gas services are maintained. Similar measures could be put in place in local authority offices to make sure that housing issues continue to be resolved, as well as roads maintained – and that other departments can rule on essential matters.
“Obviously, administration staff would be required to issue wages etc, but it may be possible that this work could be carried out from home. Financial institutions also need to stay open to maintain essential services in this regard.
“Staff at the Department of Social Protection also have a significant role to play in order to process and issue payments to the many people who have lost their jobs as a result of this outbreak.
“It is worth noting as well that media has a significant role to play in keeping people informed during the course of this chapter in our country’s history. These media outlets will also require support from Government to remain viable, as their advertising revenues have taken a significant hit as a result of the outbreak.
“If these measures are introduced, it could lead to less pressure on hospitals.
“Everyone needs to pull together. I believe we need to be ahead of the curve. I fully understand that everybody involved in making decisions are trying to cage this as best as they possibly can – and this is in no way a criticism of anybody in the political or medical fields.
“We need to be proactive in tackling this head on and eliminating as many opportunities for the transmission of this virus as possible. If this is done, we can beat this together.
“While some people might be wondering why we need to take these measures; when you make tough decisions early on, it can represent a significant benefit down the line for people, businesses and the economy.
“Like all public representatives, I want to put my shoulder to the wheel in any way to combat this outbreak. I also want to commend the Tanaiste Simon Coveney who has been hands on in many different ways and has put in a massive effort in terms of foreign affairs and national decisions,” he added.
Government action required: A clear path for both people and businesses
· In the coming days, we need to give solace to those working in terms of a consistent package that alleviates the fear among many families in the country.
· All workers who have answered the call to support the HSE also need to be looked after.
· Student nurses who are working on the frontlines need to be paid properly for the work they are carrying out.
· A strategic plan must be put in place to accommodate frontline staff who require childcare services.
· I want to commend hotels etc which have offered accommodation to frontline staff from nearby hospitals. I hope this continues, particularly for staff who maybe live with vulnerable people.
· In terms of haulage to the continent, all sailings must ensure that single cabins are available for those that are hauling essential goods. Cooperation is required across all of Europe regarding tachograph hours and agreements need to be put in place to speed up crossings at borders for Irish truck drivers.
· A proper support package needs to be put in place which includes the abolition of rates for a period of 6 months. This can be reviewed again at a later date.
· Insurance companies must honour policies and give extensions to policies, both motor and business, in the coming months.
· Banks and other financial institutions must put in place a 6-month mortgage holiday. This can be added on to the end of the mortgage term, but no additional interest can be applied. This must be implemented for business, personal and landlord clients.
· A similar holiday needs to apply for renters whose lives have been impacted by the outbreak.
· A Government backed loan system needs to be made available.
· Revenue must make allowances for the outbreak and give a holiday of 6 months on payments due, once filed with Revenue.
· An enhanced package for employers and employees needs to be rolled out, as the €203 payment is insufficient.
· After this outbreak is overcome, the VAT rate for the hospitality sector needs to be reduced back to 9% for a period to assist businesses looking to get back up and running.
Concluding, Fitzmaurice said: “This is a team effort and it is heartening to see communities pulling together right around this country, from the smallest village to the largest cities. This must continue moving forward and with this spirit, we will overcome this outbreak as quickly as we can.
“It is imperative that elderly people, who made their contributions to society, are protected. Us, as the younger generation, must show responsibility. Many washed hands will mean lighter work.”
Michael Fitzmaurice TD 086-1914565