Panic buying toilet paper, hand sanitisers, and foods because of Coronavirus will "disadvantage vulnerable people and leave them unable to access basic needs", a Galway city councillor has warned.
The Social Democrats Galway City East councillor, Owen Hanley, is calling on the public to "look after each other and stay calm" during the Coronavirus crisis, and to "listen to advice from officials". He said: "The public should have healthy scepticism of unofficial and faked information."
His calls were echoed by the Mayor of Galway, Independent city councillor Mike Cubbard, who said: "At a time when social media is so prevalent I would ask that people ensure they are taking advice from reliable sources and in particular public health experts."
'The illness could rise quickly, if that happens we need to come together as a city and community to work together'
Cllr Hanley said the priority over the coming months must be towards "protecting the vulnerable", such as the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions, as well as those in homelessness accommodation and Direct Provision. "They share a lot of spaces and may not be able to self-isolate," he said. "The HSE must clarify as soon as possible its provisions for protecting the most vulnerable."
'Workers' rights are important'
Cllr Hanley also called for workers' rights to be protected during the crisis, especially given the "financial insecurity associated with self-isolation or serious illness". He said it was his understanding that a "significant piece of emergency legislation" will be introduced next week to create social security nets for those who contract the virus.
However, Sinn Féin Galway West TD, Mairead Farrell, was critical of the fact that "no guidance has been issued to employers" regarding the treatment of employees who may be impacted by the coronavirus. "We need to ensure that employees are protected," she said, "and can have the confidence to take leave as required to ensure people come forward to self-report, reduce risk, and protect themselves as well as the public."
Cllr Hanley has called for solidarity and responsibility on the issue: "The advice from the Chief Medical Officer and the HSE must be listened to. There are estimations out there right now that illness could rise quickly, if that happens we need to come together as a city and community to work together."