Let’s start this article with a very simple proposition. Acting Minister for Health, Simon Harris, is a dangerous fool. Yes – Harris is a smart fool out of his depth in dealing with a crisis of the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic. One of Harris’s responses to the coronavirus this week has been to appear on some very decidedly unpolitical programs talking about marginal side issues. A walking disaster.
Yesterday the UK announced a massive expansion of testing to get a handle on the number of people that may have the virus. Already, the UK have tested approximately 8,000 people. In Ireland all we have tested about 90 according to reports breaking today. Simon Harris appeared on a ‘hotbed’ of political debate this morning – Today FM’s Dermot & Dave show outlining his reasons for not screening at Irish airports. Because this is not a political program he was allowed to ramble on about this irrelevant subject ad nauseum. The specific issues were ignored. Simon Harris needs to start answering the following questions
- Is it true that only 90 people in Ireland have been tested for coronavirus?
- How is he planning to expand the numbers being tested and where can these people go to be tested ?
- Is self quarantine the official first step in dealing with the virus?
- Has Simon Harris a specific list of quarantine sites identified in the event that a large number of people are infected and need medical attention?
- What advice is the Irish government giving to companies about workers that have traveled to South Korea, Russia, Italy and god forbid Iran recently?
- Have the HSE the staff and roll-out plan to deal with a mass increase of infections?
For some bizarre reason Simon Harris also made an appearance on the Newstalk sports platform to announce that the government were advising the IRFU to cancel next months Six Nations rugby international between Ireland and Italy. This proposal caught the IRFU completely unaware and it is obvious that Harris had little or no consultation with them before making it. A smart fool trying to be a hero. A caretaker minister going off on a solo run.
The Minister’s response to the massive outbreak in Italy is to cancel one rugby match. Harris seemed disappointed that the Off the Ball studio didn’t rise to their feet and burst into applause in recognition of his genius. There was no mention of a plan to deal with the thousands of people that have already returned from Italy to Ireland in the last two weeks. Indeed what about people scheduled to go to Italy in the next two weeks?
In other words Figure it out yourselves lads and ladies.
Fortunately private citizens and companies in Ireland are indeed trying to figure it out for themselves and have been a lot more proactive. I work in a factory that employees about 1,500 people and on Monday three of these workers returned from a site visit to a factory vendor in Northern Italy. As there was no formal government response to the breaking events in Italy by Simon Harris and the Irish government over the weekend the factory management had to come with a policy on the spot. The 3 workers were told to work from home for the next 2 weeks and contact local health officials for advice. There is absolutely no evidence that the 3 individuals were anywhere near any of the towns affected as of last weekend. Yet the company took no chances.
All this caretaker government are doing is taking chances with the public’s health. They have still not properly informed us how many people in Ireland have been tested for the coronavirus. What triggers the execution of a COVID-19 test?
Does a person need to be exhibiting severe symptoms before a test?
Is our current test a reliable test for the coronavirus in Ireland?
The world is in a state of emergency and Ireland has it’s head buried in the sand again. We can’t remain neutral on this subject and hope other countries will solve our problems. Sweden have no cases of the virus and have advised the country to stock up on dry goods supplies in the event of a massive outbreak and a situation where large tracts of the population are in self-quarantine at home. Simon Harris is like a man who has been told of an approaching Tsunami and is advising that it is still OK to buy 99’s on the beach.
There is very much a case to be made that a temporary national emergency government needs to be formed containing all of the main parties from the last election. It needs to be formed by the end of the week.
And the number one item on the agenda?
Simon Harris cannot be the next Minister for Health.