Dublin government to focus on booster uptake as it prepares mask legislation
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said that the Government is to consider whether to introduce legislation on mandatory face coverings later this year, but will focus on the vaccine booster campaign in the interim.
It emerged this week that laws allowing for the reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing in designated settings are to be drafted as a precautionary measure.
The move, outlined at Cabinet yesterday, is understood to be a preparatory step in case such a public health measure is required in the event of the Covid-19 situation worsening this winter.
When asked on RTÉ Radio today about whether the mandatory wearing of face coverings would be brought in during the current Covid-19 wave, the minister said: “The government will consider at what right point that legislation could be merited.
“We will look at whether that measure is needed later on in the year.”
He said that face masks have contributed to the national effort to contain Covid-19, but appealed to people to get a booster vaccine if they had not already.
“As we speak at the moment, I think 46% of the population have now received a second booster, so that means there’s over half who still haven’t.
“So in particular, for those in their late 60s, for those who are immunocompromised, our message is please avail of the booster, because that is the greatest line of defence to the disease and getting very sick, impacting on your health and that of those who are near you.
“And that is where we will focus for the time ahead.”
The minister also reiterated the Government’s line that there will not be an emergency cost-of-living budget before October’s Budget 2023 is revealed.
“There will not be an emergency budget.
“We absolutely appreciate the huge challenge and the rising costs faced by so many and the government has acted already throughout the year to help as many as we can with the rising cost of living, and when we get to do the budget later in the year, we will help again.
“We have, in addition to the Budget last year, we have put in place measures of an additional €1.4 billion.
“We’ve done our best to help. We will help again when we get to the Budget, but the issues that we have and the challenge that we have at the moment is not something we can respond to month by month, because these difficulties are not going to go away in a month.”
Speaking on Newstalk, Mr Donohoe said that during the first two years of the pandemic he faced repeated calls to spend more and intervene more.
He said: “I think we can make the case that we got the balance right in overcoming a pandemic and our economy recovering and getting people back to work and helping incomes grow again.”
On tourism, Mr Donohoe said of reports of high hotel room prices in Dublin: “I am really disappointed to see some of the prices that are now being charged in some of our hotels, and would just emphasise the risk that the biggest threat to the viability and the competitiveness of Irish tourism could well be the prices that it charges for its own hotels and for its restaurants.”
On reports of high costs for rental cars, Mr Donohoe added: “The people who would pay the price for overcharging and for charging prices that are far too high will be those businesses themselves as consumers vote with their own feet with the goods and services that they buy.
“And my message to those businesses that are involved in those kind of practices is: don’t come to me or don’t come to the government in a few months’ time looking for help when your own business practice and your own pricing decisions have undermined the competitiveness of your business and undermined the competitiveness of our country.”
Speaking about the announcement on Monday that Paul Reid will step down as CEO of the HSE in December, Mr Donohoe said: “I wasn’t aware of it until I heard about it in the media.
“I thought that Paul Reid had done a great job as the chief executive of the HSE, particularly at a time in which the pandemic posed such a challenge to us.
“When I heard the news regarding Paul’s resignation, my first reaction was that I was disappointed that we were going to be losing a person of such calibre from the leadership of the HSE at this important time.
“But I very quickly moved on to what would be the next person to do the role and how can we get the right person in to lead the HSE quickly.”