News & Media

Today is a positive step in the right direction

28 May 2021

Statement by Alan Kelly TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Northern Ireland
  • Focus on vaccine rollout and controlling variants essential.
  • 60-69 year olds being left behind in reopening due to AstraZeneca dosing gap.
  • Antigen testing still not being used enough.
  • Continued economic supports for workers and businesses critical.

With a further lifting of restrictions confirmed this evening, Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly warned that 60-69 year olds are being left behind because of the 12 week gap between their first and second doses of AstraZeneca, and repeated his message to the government to remain focused on the vaccination programme, controlling new variants and supporting those sectors still impacted, as bit by bit we reopen our society.

Deputy Kelly said:

“Today is a positive step in the right direction as we all want to beat this virus, so it is critical we get the next few weeks right. For those in sports, hospitality, as well as the events and aviation sectors the news today from government will be very welcome but we must remain vigilant and take on board the public health advice. We need to use every tool available to us to keep the virus under control.

“I am very concerned that those in the 60-69 age group, and other cohorts who received the AstraZeneca vaccine are being left behind as they won’t be fully vaccinated for many weeks to come. I am asking the government again to request a review by NIAC of the dosing gap between AstraZeneca doses which is currently three months. They are very concerned about the risks from new variants with protection as low as 33% for the first dose according to a UK study. Those waiting for their second dose are likely to be the most vulnerable and will have to wait the longest to be fully vaccinated as many parts of the country are reopened. The government can’t keep ignoring this issue.

“The rollout of vaccines is central to our further progress and reopening, and after the Minister’s bombshell announcement on supplies for June, we know that the government 82% target won’t be met. That’s why addressing the concerns about AstraZeneca is so important.

“I have been asking for the rollout of antigen testing since last October, these tests are still not being widely used by the government to suppress and control the virus. Many sectors are crying out for these to be used – from events to aviation, and it makes no sense that Ireland has dragged our feet on this. We should also be looking at rolling out the model used in the UK where every household has been given 7 free tests. It is vital that we continue to find and isolate any new cases of Covid-19. Having come this far, the reluctance from Government to rapidly roll out these tests makes no sense.

“Attention must also be given to the growing problems in non-Covid healthcare. Even as many sectors reopen, there are still very strict maternity restrictions in place that need to be looked at again. Oncologists across the country have voiced their concerns about the impact on cancer services and I am calling for a targeted plan focused on screening, diagnostics and surgeries.

“There must also be a commitment to maintain employment supports up to the end of the year, and the Government should avoid a hard deadline for tapering as we’ve seen again and again that these have to be amended as circumstances change. The Labour Party has also called for the EWSS to be repurposed into a permanent short term working scheme with training supports modelled on the German Kurzaebeit scheme.

“Action is also needed to control rents and evictions and the government must ensure they act on loopholes in the Rent Pressure Zones rules to stop double increases being applied from July.”