Government TDs express support for ‘zero-Covid’ strategy
Fianna Fáil TD ‘disappointed’ Cabinet stopped short of New Zealand style approach
Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan said: ‘Zero Covid is a strategy that we have seen in other countries and one that has been effective. I think that the Cabinet should now consider it.’ File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Government TDs have urged Ministers to look at adopting a “zero-Covid” strategy in response to the pandemic.
The remarks by Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan and Fianna Fáil’s Christopher O’Sullivan come in the wake of the latest Government announcement on Covid-19 restrictions.
Mr O’Sullivan also said he is “disappointed” that the Cabinet stopped short of the kind of mandatory quarantine measures in place in Australia and New Zealand for people travelling to those countries.
Both Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar have both cast doubt on the feasibility of a zero-Covid strategy.
Mr Varadkar has said that the National Public Health Emergency Team’s advice is that it “wouldn’t work” in Ireland.
He told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live show on Monday night: “Their advice to us is that it wouldn’t work in an Irish context. We’re in the middle of the epicentre of a pandemic in Europe. We have the issues with Northern Ireland and we also have essential connectivity with Britain and Europe.
“Zero-Covid means getting to zero community-transmission cases for . . . 14 days in a row.”
This took three months in Melbourne and could take “much longer” here, he said.
“In an Irish context it might mean a permanent lockdown and we may never get to zero for 14 days.”
People Before Profit and Rise have called for all parties to support a motion they have drafted calling for the strategy to be adopted amid claims that the Government’s “Living with Covid” approach has failed.
A zero-Covid approach would make it possible to “save the summer”, according to People Before Profit.
Neither Ms Hourigan or Mr O’Sullivan said they would support an Opposition motion on the issue but they did urge Ministers to consider the zero-Covid approach.
Dublin Central TD Ms Hourigan said the number of Covid-19 infections remain high and “all possible options should be on the table”.
She added: “Zero Covid is a strategy that we have seen in other countries and one that has been effective. I think that the Cabinet should now consider it.”
Mr O’Sullivan acknowledged that there had been advice on zero Covid from Nphet but said he still hoped the strategy would be explored and he would use his role as a Government TD to argue for this.
The Cork South-West TD had called on the Government to adopt the kind of mandatory quarantine model for people travelling from abroad that is used in New Zealand.
All travellers to New Zealand must undergo 14 days of quarantine in facilities provided by the Government with a similar regime in place in Australia.
On Tuesday, the Government announced that there would be mandatory quarantine at designated facilities for passengers that arrive without a negative Covid-19 test and for people travelling from Brazil and South Africa.
Legislation will be required to apply the measures to people coming from the UK and EU countries.
In other cases, passengers will be required by law to quarantine at home.
Mr O’Sullivan said: “I’m disappointed it’s stopped short of the New Zealand/Australia model.”
He said he did not want to dismiss the challenges of trying to bring in such regulations in Ireland pointing to the need for an all-island approach and how unionists have resisted this.
Mr O’Sullivan said: “Our Taoiseach is a diplomat. He has the skills and ability to bring people around the table.”