Donohoe denies Government operating on ‘strategy of hope’ to deal with Covid-19

State needs to acknowledge virus is endemic and plan medium-term strategy - Murphy

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has rejected claims the Government is operating on a "strategy of hope" rather than taking a proactive approach in dealing with the surge in Covid-19 cases and a fourth wave of the virus.

Insisting “the strategy that we have is not one that is based on hope” he said it was based on “putting in place public health guidance with immense resources from our country, to equip our hospitals” GPs and nurses “with all the measures and support that we can to help them deal with the approaching challenge”.

Mr Donohoe was responding to Social Democrats joint leader Catherine Murphy who expressed alarm at the rapid increase in cases with more than 7,000 in the past two days.

She said “we’re constantly being asked by people about how we’re so different from our European counterparts” in terms of the rate of transmission.


“Are we going to continue to go from wave to wave and hope that it won’t reoccur?” she asked. Ms Murphy said what the State appeared to be doing “without accepting . . . this is endemic and we need strategies to deal with it into the medium term”.

Raising the issue during leaders’ questions, Ms Murphy said it had been clear for a long time that the virus is airborne and this presents significant challenges, particularly in the winter months.

“We have been repeatedly told that schools are somehow immune to the spread of Covid,” a view that was contested.

She said despite this very little had been done in the area of ventilation when large numbers of under 12s were testing positive for the virus . “It does seem that we’re taking a very high risk here.”

The Kildare North TD said CO2 monitors have been provided for most classrooms but cited one school where a teacher said they have to keep the window fully open all the time and the classroom door can only be closed for a short time before the monitor goes red.

She urged the Government to follow the example of Victoria in Australia and invest in air filtration systems with HEPA filters for every classroom. She also cited antigen testing as a potential part of the approach. Ms Murphy said the vaccination programme had been successful “but it’s not going to be enough”.

Mr Donohoe said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is "very much aware of the change that we are seeing in community transmission and the level of Covid incidence across our country".

He stressed that Ireland is in a very different position from a year ago with the success of the Government’s vaccination programme, the “resilience of the Irish people and extraordinary work all of our frontline workers within our healthcare services”.

The Minister acknowledged the change in the spread of the disease and additional concerns “as we move into the period in which socialisation and household contact is increasing

He said there was now capacity for 475,000 tests a week with a very significant testing programme is in place along with the €1.2 billion of additional funding that was made availableto deal with the challenge of Covid.

Mr Donohoe added that public health experts continue to advise on measures and additional funding is being used for school buildings to make schools, teachers and pupils “stay as safe as possible at this time of additional risk”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times