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'People won't enjoy Christmas with the threat of another lockdown hanging over them', says Eoghan Murphy

Pressure has also been mounting on Micheál Martin to set out that the country will not return to another lockdown after Christmas.

A Dáil debate on what steps the government should take next will be held next week.
A Dáil debate on what steps the government should take next will be held next week.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

PEOPLE WON’T BE able to enjoy Christmas if there is a threat of another lockdown “hanging over them”, according to former housing minister and Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Murphy called for a change in government policy when it comes to handling the Covid-19 crisis. 

His comments come a day after the Taoiseach confirmed to his party that a Dáil debate will take place on Tuesday in relation to how the government proceeds in lifting Level 5 restrictions.

A final decision from government is due by the end of next week, after the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) meet on Thursday.

Tensions are once again rising among members of NPHET and senior government officials. 

While it is not the first time, there is growing sense is some government circles that the words of NPHET is confusing the messaging, and shifting power towards the public health team.

Throughout this pandemic, there have been concerns in the background in relation to public health experts pronouncing what should be done on the national airwaves, when policy, and the advice given to the public, should ultimately be coming from government. 

Just one week out from the lifting of Level 5 restrictions, pressure is on the Taoiseach to ensure Christmas can be meaningful for people, while also balancing the public health aspect.

Pressure has also been mounting on Micheál Martin to set out that the country will not return to another lockdown after Christmas.

Addressing the issue today, Murphy said people “despaired at the thought of Level 5 for six weeks”.

“They look forward to it being lifted… but they know they are not going to enjoy the Christmas period because the threat of another lockdown will be hanging over them for the entire month,” he said.

“As people go about meeting family and friends, and enjoying the festive season, all they will see is the likelihood of another lockdown increasing,” said the Dublin Bay South TD.

Change in policy

The Fine Gael TD called for a change of government policy, stating that “a change in policy is not to admit a policy is wrong, it is just to admit that things have changed, and they have changed”.

“Our understanding of the virus has changed, our ability to combat the virus has changed, our understanding of the damage of a lockdown versus the risks of the virus has changed and our expectations on a vaccine has changed,” he added.

Murphy said it is now time to change the plan, stating that the Taoiseach should “commit to a strategy of no more lockdowns”, and no more levels as set out in the government’s Living with Covid-19 plan.

He called for a “no lockdown strategy” to be announced by the Taoiseach next week, stating there are other ways now to keep people safe while living with the virus.

Murphy is not alone in his call, with a number of other TDs making such arguments this week at the party’s private meetings held last night.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach told his parliamentary party meeting that people will be able to have an enjoyable, meaningful and safe Christmas.

He said personal behaviour will be important over the festive period, and a level of trust will be placed on the public stay safe. 

Reopening after Level 5

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the government has a critical decision to make in the next week. He said people should be allowed to return to work, perhaps one day per week. 

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Shops, gyms and churches should also reopen for people’s mental health, he said.

He said: “What we need to do as we return now is to promote the controlled environments, that includes the reopening of retail.

“I would also argue the likes of a gallery or a gym or a golf course or a church, there are so many aspects in our daily life that are really important to our mental health and wellbeing, which are safe.”

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