Minister must audit impact of 1m rule on health service

24 May 2020

With continued speculation that social distancing may be reduced from two metres to one, Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly said the Minister for Health should immediately carry out an audit of the impact such a change would have by increasing capacity of the health service to treat more patients.

Deputy Kelly said:

“If social distancing rules are reduced to one metre, it could significantly increase the treatment capacity and throughput of our health service, if it was safe to do so, and it would help the healthcare roadmap for opening up of services. There is a clear divergence now between the WHO and the Government.

“The Government have sown confusion with the public due to speculation about changing the social distancing rule from two metres to one, which is recommended by the WHO. The Covid-19 crisis has all but shut down most non-essential treatments and cancer screening which will have a major impact on health outcomes for our people. Even when some services return capacity will be much lower.

“The Minister for Health should commission an audit immediately to determine what the ongoing impact of either the 2-metre, or 1-metre rule would be on our health system. If it is safe to change to 1 metre as the WHO recommends, then it will contribute to the saving of lives from non-Covid diseases and conditions.

“This would make a real difference. After the complete confusion over the bonkers 2 hour rule last week we now need a clear explanation from the Government on why we are specifically using the ECDC recommendation rather than the WHO rule. If the public health advice allows for it, and we followed the WHO, it would make life much easier for society and businesses, like they have now done in France and other EU countries.

“As I have raised in the Dáil for the last three weeks I am concerned that we have yet to see a roadmap for the reopening of our health service as the number of non-Covid related deaths will soon outweigh Covid deaths. The Government needs to publish the measures it will take to ensure safe delivery of Covid and non-Covid care in our hospitals and should now also carry out an audit of the impact of a change to the 2-metre rule on service delivery.”

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