Mixed emotions in political youth wings and hospitality following turbulent week of Covid announcements

Matthew Joyce

This past week has undoubtedly been one of the most hectic weeks in this Covid-19 pandemic, following announcements about indoor hospitality and vaccinating younger people.

First, on Monday, speaking in a lunch-time address to the nation, Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the further delay to the reopening of indoor hospitality by at least two weeks, in order to create a system to only allow vaccinated people, and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past nine months.

The Taoiseach said the extra delay to the reopening was due to the increased spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19, which he said is 55% more transmissible than the previous Alpha variant, first discovered in the UK.

He also said the Cabinet aims to have a system ready to allow entry to those people by July 19th.

Youth wings of various political parties, on both sides of the opposition and government, along with youth groups, and DCU’s student bar have expressed frustration and confusion at these latest decisions.

Those in youth wings have been airing their anger at these decisions as they say it discriminates against younger people who do not have as great access to vaccines compared to older age groups.

In a letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, Ógra Fianna Fáil’s Central Officer Board described the delay as “farcical” and said they were “extremely worried” about the development of a so-called “vaccine passport” to validate vaccination or that a person has recovered from Covid-19 in the past nine months.

“Any further postponement of reopening in this sector will again disproportionately affect young people, leaving many of them out of work during the summer period where they make most of their income.”

“Students were already hard pressed enough, they need a break.”

The President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Lorna Fitzpatrick called for the early vaccinations of those working in the hospitality sector.

“We would expect that anyone who cannot do their job because they have not been offered a vaccine yet should be entitled to continue to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said. “There cannot be a situation where you can only socialise indoors if you have a vaccine but are expected to work there even if you don’t.”

In a letter to the Taoiseach, Young Fine Gael President Art O’Mahony expressed his “disgust” at the decision to delay.

“We were told to hold firm, that the next few weeks were crucial, that we are all in this together,” Mr. O’Mahony said. “That was a lie.”

The National Chairperson of Ógra Shinn Féin Caoimhín McCann told The College View that the plan to only allow vaccinated people was “yet another kick in the teeth for young people.”

However, four days later, it was announced that those in the 18-34 age cohort would be able to get a single-dose Janssen vaccine from the following Monday, 5th July.

These young adults can access the Janssen vaccine from any participating pharmacy, once they register with the pharmacy and get an appointment date.

However if you are unable to get an appointment, from July 12th, those in the same cohort can also register on the HSE online portal for a Janssen or AstraZeneca vaccine, which they would get from a vaccination centre.

Jack Nolan, Vice-Chairperson of Labour Youth, told The College View the latest announcement does “bear some merit” alongside the decision to only allow indoor dining for vaccinated people on 19th July.

“The fact that “segregated reopening” is in practical terms staggering a large influx of indoor diners to protect unvaccinated workers should not be ignored,” Nolan added. “I believe for many young workers, this will be good news.”

Mr. Nolan also said the “lockdown-reopening cycle has been a tough blow to younger people and as a result of mismanagement, has them feeling somewhat alienated.”

It is expected that those in the same age group will be able to register online for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine sometime in August, pending the arrival of further doses.

Nubar, DCU’s student bar and restaurant, told The College View they are unsure how a “two-tier social system” can be created.

They added they have to wait for the Government’s plan on July 19th:

“That’s all we can do, and adapt as best we can and keep going and try give the students the best we can of a bad situation.”

Matthew Joyce

Image Credit: Aoibhín Meghen

Note: This article was reuploaded on 14/07/2021 due to a fault with The College View website.