THE government has been urged to develop a long term strategy to deal with Covid-19 and ease stringent restrictions to allow people meet safely outdoors.
That’s the view of Deputy Michael McNamara, who believes the government must outline a plan to allow people to meet each other in the open air, while employing social distancing, and provide some outdoor hospitality services.
The East Clare Deputy has been informed by former Senator Billy Lawless, who runs restaurants in Chicago, that outdoor dining was possible in very cold conditions in the USA, which illustrated this could be replicated in Ireland during the Spring.
He said most bars, restaurants and hotels would be able to work safely outdoors if they were given the opportunity to do so.
“People have been cooped up for a very long time now. At what point do will allow people to live because if we don’t ease up, people will just crack?
“A lot of what happened during Christmas was the fact we had the most restrictive lockdown regime in Europe last year. People behaved like calves being let out of a shed during Spring.
“We had the longest lockdown in Europe and we haven’t necessarily done any better than other countries as a result in terms of cases and deaths.”
While Deputy McNamara believes people should follow public health guidelines, he feels that they need to see a long term strategy of how to live with the virus.
“There doesn’t seem to be a long term strategic planning for the fact Covid-19 will be around for a while.
There has to be another option because we can’t continue like this. I think the restrictions are becoming counter productive, people are beginning to stop adhering to them.
You can condemn it all you like but there is only so much people can do.”
Public health officials have warned against people congregating on St Patrick’s Day, socialising or joining protests that might infringe public health rules.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) also said it did not want to see people gathering to drink in ways that risked transmitting Covid-19.
“I noted last week that we are also seeing an increase in mobility, and, while some increase is to be expected due to many returning to school, we must continue to be very cautious,” Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) epidemiological modelling advisory group, told a media briefing on Monday evening.
Case numbers have been increasing recently among older children and young adults in those age from five to 38 years.
However, very few of the cases among children were associated with school outbreaks – fewer than 10 out of 403 among five to 12-year-olds last week.
Deputy McNamara expressed frustration with the slow pace of increasing health services to deal with Covid-19 in acute facilities, particularly ICU beds, which is a lot more cost effective in the long term.
Commenting on foreign graduates qualifying from Irish medical schools, he stressed a lot more of these interns should be hired to deal with staff shortages in the Irish health service because of their medical training and expertise.
Deputy McNamara stressed it is important that the vast majority of people who want to be vaccinated, particularly the vulnerable, receive a vaccine as quickly as possible.
The East Clare Deputy said it is a pity the government are only now realising there are a huge number of pharmaceutical companies in this country and are only requesting assistance in terms of securing additional vaccines at the eleventh hour.
“NPHET has to treat the population as it is rather than what it would like it to be.
NPHET’s sole purpose is to suppress the spread of Covid-19, which is very valid. However, if it becomes the only focus of the state, we are heading for a disaster.
“Any state with only one focus isn’t a properly functioning state. The government has to heed public health advice and carefully balance it.
“If the government followed health advice all the time, we would have a much better health care system. It seems the government follows the advice of some doctors but not others. We have children with spinal issues who may or may not be treated, despite the fact specialists are crying out for additional theatre space,” he said.