Gabriel Scally: North and Republic must harmonise Covid-19 response

Two approaches to coronavirus testing and contact tracing are dangerously incompatible

UK health policy on coronavirus has ignored both experience elsewhere and the relevant international bodies. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor

UK health policy on coronavirus has ignored both experience elsewhere and the relevant international bodies. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor

Historically, islands have advantages when dealing with epidemics. For example avoiding importation of new cases by controlling movement to and from the island is comparatively simple. However, in this coronavirus pandemic, Ireland’s geographical advantage is being squandered by the adoption of very different approaches to dealing with the disease. Potentially these differences between the North and the Republic are very serious.

Across the island, health services are making enormous efforts to treat people seriously ill with coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, while preparing for a future spike in cases. In addition, although there are differences around measures to ensure isolation of individuals and households, both the North and the Republic are now fully aware that it is crucial. However, the inconsistencies are not trivial. The advice to someone in Lifford with symptoms of the disease is to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days – a stone’s throw away in Strabane the advice is isolation for seven days.

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