News & Media

'Path Ahead' lacks clear metrics with no new plan to aggressively suppress Covid-19

23 February 2021

Statement by Alan Kelly TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Health and Disability Services
  • Relies solely on vaccination rollout.
  • No plan to aggressively suppress Covid-19 in the community.
  • No change to lax travel policy.
  • Antigen testing won't be considered until mid-March.

Labour Party Leader and Health spokesperson Alan Kelly has criticised the absence of clear metrics and targets from the latest government strategy on Covid-19 published this evening, as it over-relies on vaccination rollout and fails to learn the public health lessons from new variants.

Deputy Kelly said:
"Earlier today I said the government needed to give the people some hope, and avoid the communications mistakes that have been so damaging for public confidence. While the Taoiseach offered some clarity on school reopenings, there were no clear metrics or targets in his speech or the government document on the level of cases or hospitalizations we need to reach. It's hard to know what public health advice or science was incorporated in this latest plan to avoid the mistakes made over the last year.

"So in reality there is nothing really new in the plan published this evening. There is no renewed commitment or proposals to aggressively suppress the virus in our community, and ensure that we eradicate outbreaks when they arise, and keep out new variants through mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals. No real lessons appear to have been learned from the experience and impact of new variants which tore apart the government's previous Living with Covid plan.

"This is more of the same, with a reliance on continued lockdowns until vaccines reach enough of the population. That is not the detailed plan the Labour Party has argued for when we called in the Dáil a fortnight ago for a national aggressive suppression strategy.

"The Taoiseach said 'the end is truly in sight' but he didn't provide any reassurance about the renewed efforts that will be made on community testing or tracing. I called for the government to restore public confidence and competency. What they heard tonight behind it all was lockdown will continue until we have enough people vaccinated. What isn't clear is why the government haven't made more efforts to purchase additional vaccine doses?

"There is a commitment in the plan to deploy antigen testing, but I have been raising this for months now, and we still won't have a decision by the government until mid March which is frankly unacceptable and too slow. This should have happened weeks ago as part of a plan to suppress the virus in the community.

"There must be an analysis by the Health and Safety Authority of medium and large employers as to why so many workers are still on the move if their work isn't essential, and that the public health advice is being adhered to. As I said in January, the government must commit to a survey of employers with 20 or more employees, to ensure all workers who can, are working from home."