Zero-Covid policy is a fantasy
Sir, – On separate news programmes on Tuesday, there were two advocates for a “zero-Covid island”, that is a total eradication of Covid-19.
A zero-Covid island is an utter fantasy. It should be recognised for the extremist view that it is. Our extended lockdown earlier this year, long by European standards, did not result in a single day with no new cases of Covid-19.
We have two separate political and healthcare systems on this island. It was correctly recognised during the Brexit debate that enforcing a hard border would be almost impossible in terms of logistics and expense. Without a uniform policy for Northern Ireland and the Republic, our own Government’s attempts at an eradication strategy would be futile.
Even if there was some appetite for a co-ordinated North-South policy on Covid-19, an all-island eradication policy would have to involve impractical restrictions on travel with mainland Britain that would be unacceptable both to unionists and the UK government.
There is significantly less public buy-in for a total lockdown as compared with March this year; without near-full voluntary compliance with restrictions, stemming transmission is impossible. We are not a police state.
While it was potentially achievable on the basis of an enforceable agreement between Ireland and the UK government (not just the Northern Ireland executive) earlier this year in January and February, if incoming flights had been cancelled and initial disease establishment had been prevented, it is clearly no longer the case.
Public health is about more than this virus. It is not reasonable to advocate destroying civil liberties, schooling, health, lives and livelihoods in the pursuit of the totally unattainable goal of zero-Covid island. – Yours, etc,
Dr EANNA COFFEY,