Clear strategy to avoid repeat of more lockdowns now needed
- Robust testing and tracing system to tackle future cases needed.
- Detailed rollout plan for Covid-19 vaccine must be published.
- Inter-county travel up to 6th January welcome.
With plans to relax the Level 5 lockdown confirmed for next week, Labour Party Leader and Health spokesperson Alan Kelly said there must now be a clear strategy outlined by the government to ensure we can avoid future lockdowns with a commitment to a robust and fully resourced testing and tracing system, and a detailed plan for the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines once approved.
Deputy Kelly said:
“Six weeks ago the Labour Party called for a clear strategy to save Christmas and give people hope that we could get on top of the rising incidience of Covid-19. I am glad the government took on our advice then and adhered to the five level plan for living with Covid. The confirmed of the relaxation of restrictions next week is welcome.
“However what we must ensure now is that the decisions are communicated clearly with people and that the confusion we saw with previous announcements is avoided. There will be those disappointed with the pace of reopening, and others who are fearful that we may see a future spike in cases, and we understand that.
“I am very conscious of the incredible work being done by frontline workers, and in particular those in the healthcare sector, many of who will be working throughout Christmas. I have raised this with the government that I welcome that they have taken this on board and that inter country travel during the Christmas period is allowed at least up to 6th January, which will be of benefit to those who delayed their family plans until the New Year when working over Christmas Day and St. Stephens Day.
“What I most want to see now is that the Government learn from their previous mistakes and ensure our testing and tracing system is ready to tackle future spikes. We also must ensure that further progress is made on expanding our intensive care capacity. The tracing system must also be able to cope with any increase in cases before and after Christmas. We had a worrying but avoidable situation in October when thousands of close contacts of positive Covid cases went uncontacted because the contact tracing system became overwhelmed with cases because it was not properly resourced.
“There can be no excuse if our contact tracing system becomes overwhelmed again. We have been here before and should know what level of demand our tracing system can take before it becomes overwhelmed. Minister Donnelly needs to ensure that the necessary staff are recruited before the festive period and that the Army are placed on notice and that they may be called upon if necessary.
“It is also likely that we will see vaccines for Covid-19 approved for emergency use in the coming weeks so it is essential that we see a detailed roll-out plan for how it will be administered.”