'Creating a George Orwell situation where some are more equal than others' – TD slams public health advice

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Public health advice insisting people should not spend more than two hours in the same room as each other has been branded ‘bonkers’.

abour Party leader Alan Kelly said the advice, which has limited the length of time Oireachtas Committees can sit, is creating a “George Orwell situation” where “some are more equal than others”.

“If it applies in here, it applies in the courts, it applies with the pharmacists, with the shops, with the meat factories, with the gardai and for everyone else,” Mr Kelly said.

The Labour leader’s intervention came after it was suggested courts could only sit for two hours a day in line with advice the Houses of the Oireachtas received from the HSE on committee hearings.

The Special Committee on Covid-19 Response had been told witnesses should not be in the chamber for longer than two hours at a time over fears about the virus being spread among those in attendance.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has said the two hours rule is not steadfast for all workplaces and factors such as ventilation and size of the room should be taken on board before deciding if workers could remain in an area beyond the suggested timeline.

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Medical chief Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Medical chief Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Medical chief Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Colin Keegan

Medical chief Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Mr Kelly said the Government should clarify whether the two hour rule applies to all businesses or just the Oireachtas. “It’s frankly bonkers that this situation arose this week,” he said.

“I don’t think the majority of people were aware of this two hours within 24 hours timeline because the consequences of it for Irish society, for businesses, for organizations are huge,” he added.

He said it is not reasonable to businesses to audit their premises to ensure they can allow staffs work in a room for longer than two hours.

In a statement, Mr Kelly said the Government had three choices:

1. Publish comprehensive and consistent guidelines sector by sector in the next 24 hours as to how shops, factories, garda stations and everything can operate within these guidelines

2. Accept that in many cases this won’t be possible or viable and that employers are in essence going to be putting some employees at risk.

3. Changes the advice to something that realistic, proportionate and implementable. In other words, admit that they were over zealous and got this one wrong given where we are with the virus now.

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Source: Irish News