Speaking ahead of the Government announcement tomorrow of the latest version of Living with Covid, Róisín Shortall TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats, has called on the Taoiseach to take a new approach with a new strategy.

Deputy Shortall commented:

“People need to be given hope – there needs to be light at the end of the tunnel. More of the same means limping from one lockdown to another. We need a new direction from Government which will give the country the best chance of driving down daily case numbers close to zero, as we did last July, and keep them down.

“We need mandatory hotel quarantine to apply to all inward travel, and not just limited to the list of 20 countries proposed by Government. Travel has been a major loophole to controlling the virus. This cannot continue to be the case, especially in light of a number of concerning new variants.

“Our priority must be to get children back to school and to achieve some level of opening up by the summer. Government needs to set an ambitious target for the reduction of daily cases. This must be matched by specific actions such as:

  • Directing employers to enable staff to work from home wherever possible.
  • Reducing the level of construction activity and putting in specific safeguards for construction workers commuting from Northern Ireland.
  • Requiring supermarkets and shops to reinstate earlier precautions which have been relaxed.
  • Putting a particular focus on workers in low-paid sectors, such as meat factories and care settings, as well as providing adequate financial supports when the need to isolate arises.

“Of primary concern is the fact that daily case numbers are remaining stubbornly high, with indications they may be plateauing. The prevalence of the B117 virus and the presence of the P1 Brazilian variant, however limited, pose huge challenges for bringing the daily rates under control.

“We need an effective testing and tracing system, led by properly resourced public health doctors, so that retrospective tracing can establish exactly where virus transmission is taking place.

“The public has done its part to comply with the severe restrictions asked of them, but this may not continue in the absence of clear leadership from Government or if Government does not address the areas which it alone can control. Most of all, the Government must set out an ambitious and clear pathway to severely suppress the virus within a reasonable timeframe.”

February 22, 2021

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