Róisín Shortall, TD and co-leader of the Social Democrats, today raised serious concerns about Ireland’s readiness to begin reopening on the level proposed for May 18th under plans for Phase 1. Her concerns are based on three key areas which show little evidence to support the easing of restrictions to the extent envisaged:

  1. Test and trace strategy still inadequate
  2. Serious health risk in reopening large construction sites
  3. Lack of effective controls at airports and ports

“There is little evidence to show the country is ready for reopening on the scale proposed under Phase 1,” Deputy Shortall said.

“The turnaround time for testing and tracing is far too long, which jeopardises the effectiveness of the entire strategy. Right now, it takes an average of 9 days to complete testing and tracing for one case in addition to the incubation time before someone contacts their GP as well as delays in getting a test and receiving results. Health experts have called for a turnaround time of 3 days, so we have a lot further to go. If the country eases restrictions on Monday to the degree currently planned, we run the risk of seeing a spike in new cases as well as community transmission.

“The scheduled reopening of construction sites poses serious health risks. Workers on large sites operate in extremely close quarters, often move into urban areas during the work week and share vehicles as well as accommodation with other workers, visit the local shops and takeaway food outlets, and then return home for the weekend. How can the 100k workers in this industry protect themselves, their families and the communities they live and work in?

“You only need to look at the figures in the UK, where construction sites were not closed down. They are very sadly one of the worst hit professions for Covid-19 deaths in that country, with men in construction having three times the death rate as men in health services.

“We need close control over potential imported cases, but the protocol in airports and ports is far from satisfactory. Last week a full third of people arriving into the country refused to give details of where they would self-isolate, and another third of those who did give details did not respond to follow up calls. How can we possibly be satisfied that we can monitor and reduce imported cases of Covid-19 when this is the case?

“I am not at all confident that the Government has a handle on community transmission or imported cases of Covid-19, and there is little evidence that it would be appropriate to begin reopening on Monday to the extent originally envisaged. Easing restrictions on the level proposed at this point would jeopardise the huge effort that the public has put in so far to flatten the curve, until we have a sufficient test and trace strategy in place.”


Date: 12 May 2020

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