Minister for Health Simon Harris in the Dáil this evening
In the Dáil.
Health Minister Simon Harris responded to points made by Green Party TD Ossian Smyth.
During his contribution, Mr Smyth asked Mr Harris if he would support Google and Apple “in their announcement that they want to co-operate to produce an app that can help with contact tracing on the basis that it respects privacy”.
Mr Smyth also told Mr Harris that he wanted to see Ireland become prepared “for the next microbial pandemic after Covid” and asked the minister to create a “pandemic preparedness unit” or a “pandemic readiness unit” within the Department of Health.
In relation to the point about an app, Mr Harris said:
“On the issue of the app, I’m very supportive of the app. I think we really need an app. The HSE is at a very advanced stage, and my department, of launching one.
“I know we’ve been discussing with mobile phone operators…I know other companies are also thinking of it. It would involve people opting in. I think the Irish people would opt in though.
“I think they’d opt in in overwhelming numbers once they knew, you know, that the parameters in terms of their own data protection and the fact it could save their lives and the lives of their family…”
In relation to the point about a pandemic unit, Mr Harris said:
“In relation to preparing for future public health pandemics, I mean you’re right. Public health has been the poor relation of health in this country for a long time, for a really, really long time.
“The Department of Health has often been the department of illness, what do we do when somebody gets sick? Not only do we realise the real value of public health at a time like this, whether we go the road of establishing, like they have in the UK, Public Health England, as a separate stand-alone organisation? Or whether you look, as you suggested, a unit or something as part of the HSE?
“My one personal view is that it should be integrated as part of the health service, rather than setting up other bodies. But I’m open to discussions in this House.
“And sure maybe whoever forms the next Government can help us in that challenge.”
Earlier: Question Time [Updated]
Previously: The CovidTracker App And You