News & Media

Coherent plan needed from Government to suppress Covid-19

9 February 2021

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

Speaking at the launch of a Labour Party motion to be debated in the Dáil on Wednesday calling for a National Aggressive Suppression Strategy for Covid-19, Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly called on the Government to bring forward a coherent plan adopting a ‘Zero Covid’ approach.

Deputy Kelly said:

“It’s very clear listening to the Government that there is now no strategy in place to deal with the next number of months. Listening to the Taoiseach this morning, it’s depressing. He spoke about different options available to suppress the virus, but there’s no detail as to how we will manage mutations or variants, or how we will suppress this virus and reopen our communities. The Living with Covid plan is now irrelevant – it has failed. What we’re doing now is not living and I think these past few weeks have been phenomenally challenging for everyone. In all my time in politics, I have never seen so many people down and depressed as they are.

“So what the Government needs to do now is give us hope and direction, and announce its plan for the next three months publicly. They need to tell us out straight – what is going to happen in March. What sacrifices will be asked of us once again to crush this virus? This haphazard nature of extending and rolling lockdowns cannot continue. The Government has additional information that it did not have in calling this most recent lockdown – we know that the vaccine rollout will take longer and not be the panacea we thought it might be. We also know that the level of virus in the community is going to remain at a very high level due to new variants brought into the country. So what is the Government’s strategy?

“That’s why the Labour Party is putting a motion before the Dáil tomorrow to implement a National Aggressive Suppression Strategy. We’re doing this because we know the Government has found our suggestions around Covid useful to date. We can implement a strategy to get the cases down to double digits, crushing the virus nationally, then manage outbreaks where they occur at a local level successfully. We are calling on the Government to pay attention to key tenets of our strategy that they are failing to act on to date.

“Mandatory quarantining for all arrivals into the country is just the right thing to do. The Government has wasted nine months in developing legislation needed in this area and the public can’t afford any more of this time wasting. Everybody arriving into the country should be placed in hotels with robust testing facilities – it’s as simple as that. In a choice between continuing locking our people up or quarantining those who choose to travel here, the Government should just take the common sense approach. We should be quarantining arrivals rather than keeping the entire public locked in their homes during the darkest months of the years.

“Another elephant in the room that needs to be addressed by Government is why we are seeing higher volumes of traffic on the roads than we saw last March. Government needs to conduct a survey with the Health and Safety Authority to all employers with 20 employees or more to understand why so many people are working in their offices. If we are trying to reduce movement, then this needs to be addressed. Workers must be supported by Government to stay at home. Remember that it's the worker and not the employer who carries the can if the Gardai or the courts decide that travelling to work was not essential, and it’s the individual that bears the brunt of this horrible virus.

“We need to get to a point where we can have some form of freedom and life and enjoy the future. A strategy needs to be in place where we are confident that those arriving into the country will be quarantined and when a community outbreak does occur, public health will be resourced sufficiently to robustly trace and test in an area until the virus is suppressed there.

“In all of this, I’m concerned at the Government’s failure to address the concerns of our healthcare staff. They are exhausted and all analysis shows that the mental wellbeing of frontline workers is at rock bottom. Given the exhaustive nature of their workflows, particularly in this most recent surge, Government needs to turn its focus to supporting and protecting the workers who have spent the last year supporting and protecting us.

“2021 cannot be the same as 2020. By having a National Aggressive Suppression Strategy, we can ensure a better year. I want the Government to state in the next week what the plan is. They need to be honest and communicate with us so we can mentally prepare ourselves for what the next number of months have in store.”