Róisín Shortall TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats, has expressed concern over a number of issues which have come to light today.

These include delivery delays of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine; reports of frontline staff in Nenagh Hospital not receiving a vaccine; and an appeal to the Irish Government from First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill to share information about passengers arriving on the island.

Deputy Shortall said:

“It is extremely disappointing that Pfizer plans to reduce the delivery of the vaccine into Europe, which means availability and rollout will come under even more pressure in Ireland as the vaccine becomes scarcer.

“It is absolutely essential then that the first priority is given to frontline healthcare workers in hospitals, especially those who are dealing with patients displaying symptoms of Covid-19 or working in Covid-19 wards.

“Frontline staff working directly with Covid-19 patients in Nenagh Hospital have still not been given any indication of when they will receive the vaccine. This failing needs to be addressed immediately and a thorough investigation should take place into how the situation arose in the first place.

“Our frontline health workers have been putting themselves on the line every day to protect and treat our population over what has been a very harrowing year. To see this treatment of them now is extremely disappointing, to say the least.

“I welcome today’s joint statement by the Chief Medical Officers in Northern Ireland and the Republic. Given that the current situation in many of our hospitals is on a knife edge and cases remain at a high level, it is reassuring to see cooperation on both sides of the border and their appeal to the public to stay at home.

“However, this comes at the same time that First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have said that the Republic of Ireland is failing to share information with their Government about overseas passengers arriving on the island.

“International travel has been a major gap in the Government’s strategy throughout the pandemic and desperately needs to be addressed. It is absolutely essential that we have cross-border cooperation and an all-island strategy to combat this virus. Our island status should give us an advantage in fighting Covid-19, and yet the Government’s weak approach to travel over the past ten months has only served to stopper containment efforts.

“Concerns about the ‘Dublin dodge’, whereby people fly into Dublin or Belfast Airport and cross the border into the neighbouring jurisdiction to avoid the requirement to self-isolate, have been raised over many months and cannot continue to be ignored on this side of the border. This will become more vital as different strains emerge around the world. The appeal from Government leaders in Northern Ireland needs a positive response from the Minister for Health.”

January 15, 2021

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