Laois TD Brian Stanley has called on the government to ramp up the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
The latest figures show that 226,291 people have received their first dose and 133,325 people have received their second dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland.
While this is broadly in line with EU standards – it is far slower than the UK and Northern Ireland.
While Deputy Stanley recognises the issues with supply, he says that more can be done to become more efficient at what we do.
Speaking in the Dail, the Sinn Fein TD said: “I want to raise a few points about the vaccine roll out.
“Capacity needs to be ramped up across the state. We need to use Army medics, the Civil Defence, and Order of Malta, which are all trained in providing vaccinations. This is happening in other countries.
“With regards to centres, I am aware that the Pfizer vaccine cannot be used everywhere and can only be used in a controlled environment because of temperature requirements, however, the other vaccines can be stored in an ordinary fridge.
“Why are we not utilising every town hall and community centres we have at our disposal? They are all empty at the moment due to Covid. Why not use what is owned by the local authority or parish.
“Instead, we are using private venues. Does someone always have to make a profit out of the pandemic?”
Mr Stanley also hit out at the government’s decision to only introduce mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers into the country for a 14-day period from 20 countries.
Sinn Fein and other opposition parties had wanted this measure extended to all countries but their motion was defeated.
Mr Stanley said: “Since day one, it has been essential that we bring the public with us at every step and every decision during the Covid pandemic.
“However, each week it becomes more difficult to explain to the public the inconsistencies and decisions that this government is making.
“The public wonder why they are restricted to 5km, why they can’t visit their families or go to church, when at the same time the Government has dragged its feet for ten months on mandatory quarantine or real restrictions for international travellers.’
“Sinn Féin has called for a 14-day mandatory system of hotel quarantine for international inward travel for ten months now to stop the spread of the virus and so has the Chief Medical Officer.
“Finally, the Government has at last moved on this issue but only for 20 countries. This is very worrying when we know that the Brazil and South African variants are spreading across various continents.’
“We have has also called for much more to be done to take advantage of our island sea border. This is a challenge and our Government has shown a complete lack of leadership on North/South co-ordination.
“Two weeks ago, I asked the Minister whether he had requested a data sharing system with his counterpart in the North around numbers commuting across the border. I’ll ask again has this been done?
“There has been no serious effort by this Government to support our efforts to get the DUP to join a coherent all island strategy to tackle Covid and place restrictions at ports in the north.”
And finally, deputy Stanley called for our testing and tracing system to be improved.
He said: “Finally, testing and tracing needs to be improved. The recent halt of this programme for close contacts shows that it is inadequate. It is essential that we get this right and that the capacity is there to defeat the virus.
“Even at this late stage, I call on the Government to use the options it has. These can improve restrictions on international travel and increase all-island co-operation.
“We will support the Government every step of the way with that. Let us ramp up the vaccine roll out. If we do these things, we can get society get back to the some level of normality soon.”