News & Media

National Aggressive Suppression Strategy for Covid-19 now needed

24 January 2021

Statement by Alan Kelly TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Health and Disability Services

Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly said there must now be a national aggressive suppression strategy (NASS) for Covid-19 including mandatory quarantine and checks close to the border in the absence of an all island agreement.

Deputy Kelly said:

"With Covid-19 cases so high, delayed vaccine rollout, our hospitals under severe pressure and Ireland facing months more of Level 5 lockdown it is clear we need a new national approach to Covid-19. It is time we learned from the mistakes made over the last 10 months.

"I am calling for the government to implement a national aggressive suppression strategy (NASS) for the virus to eradicate community transmission. With schools remaining closed until after St Patricks Day it is obvious that the traditional written Leaving Cert also won't be going ahead, so the time must be used now to plan properly for alternatives.

"Within a NASS a number of measures must be adopted including mandatory quarantine for inward travel, with police checks and testing at our airports.There will need to be criteria and exceptions for essential workers especially in logistics, but proper policing and checks will reduce non-essential international travel. At this point there is no other real choice.

"In the absence of an agreed all-island strategy we will also need to put checkpoints near the border. Having these on as many routes as possible, 5kms from the border will identify why people are travelling and ensure non-essential journeys are reduced. We have a duty to all our citizens and residents to address this now. Only checks will deter travel. It's impossible to say we can check every single road across the border but we should do our best so that people know if they travel they will likely be met.

"The vaccine rollout is now going to take longer than expected, delaying when we can reopen safely, and will be concentrated at first in western countries. There is a major concern that new variants will continue to evolve, especially in countries without widespread vaccinations, and that this could undermine the efficacy of the vaccine if these new strains are able to easily get into Ireland.

"There must also be a survey of employers with over twenty staff to find out why so many workers are still travelling to work if it can be done from home. We need rapid antigen testing, and serial PCR testing. We need to get Covid-19 cases down to double digits and eradicate community transmission.

"The people are ahead of politicians on this, and want this disease suppressed. We can't go back to hopping up and down between levels. If we get the numbers down we can aggressively test and trace to keep the virus suppressed."