The government response can be summarised as chaotic and incoherent.
The reopening plan announced today betrays an abject lack of planning and foresight by the government, according to Social Democrats Health Spokesperson Róisín Shortall.
“With just three days left to go before many businesses reopen, for the first time in 19 months, the rules are being rewritten. Again. They are being rewritten because the government has failed to put sufficient focus on ventilation and antigen testing, as mitigation measures to reduce the spread of covid.
“Covid can be unpredictable, in the manner in which it quickly surges, but one aspect of this virus is entirely consistent – the way in which it spreads. We have known for a long time that the virus is airborne, but that knowledge has not been reflected in the public health messaging.
“Guidance on ventilation, in indoor spaces where people congregate, must be a central focus of any government response to this pandemic. Yet, it has been entirely absent. The single nod to ventilation, for the duration of this crisis, was when schools were given C02 monitors. Yet, when the screens of those monitors turn red, to indicate high levels of C02 in classrooms, there is nothing that teachers can do – other than open a window – because they haven’t been given air-filtration units.
“The Taoiseach said yesterday he was a big fan of antigen testing. Where is the evidence of that? There has been a complete aversion to its use across government. In fact, we are almost alone among developed countries in not employing antigen testing as a major mitigation measure. We also have no information about how the government proposes to significantly scale up antigen testing now, we are in the midst of a surge.
“For instance, during his press conference today, the Taoiseach said there would be an enhanced roll for antigen testing and tests would be sent to vaccinated close contacts of confirmed cases. This is a major undertaking, but how will it work in practice? How long should people expect to be waiting to receive those tests in the post? Has any planning gone into this at all?
“Covid certs are now going to be rolled out to venues like nightclubs and music venues. While that makes sense, how will the government enforce this measure? By the government’s own admission, there is a widespread failure to enforce covid certs in bars and restaurants. Nothing in the government’s announcement today addressed how enforcement could be ramped up – particularly given the range of businesses using these certs, as a condition of reopening, is now being markedly increased.
“Much of the focus of today’s announcement was the government urging people to employ personal responsibility when it comes to adherence to the restrictions. But, personal responsibility will do nothing to boost ventilation standards across businesses, will not provide guidance on antigen testing and will not provide additional hospital capacity. People must be responsible, but so too must the government. It must plan appropriately and provide adequate resources where necessary.
“The government is seeking to downplay its own role in managing this virus, and foist the blame for the spike in cases on the general public – most of whom are now fully vaccinated and have been assiduously adhering to guidelines since this crisis first emerged in March 2020.
“We need the government response to this pandemic to be credible and consistent. Regrettably, at the moment, the response can be summarised as chaotic and incoherent.”
19 October, 2021