Micheal Martin says he's in favour of the wearing of face masks. Leah Farrell

Micheál Martin says level of testing and contact tracing is 'not where we should be'

He said testing and tracing is key to getting the economy reopened.

FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said that the use of face masks by the public should form part of plans for reopening Ireland from the Covid-19 lock-down.

He also raised concern that the level of testing and contact tracing is “not where we should be” in terms of facilitating the reopening of the economy.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) have been considering the use of face coverings, though Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said they will not be mandatory.

Speaking on Newstalk Radio with Pat Kenny,  Martin said: “I favour masks”.

Martin said his sister-in-law in Singapore has been discussing the issue with him.

“Singapore isn’t the answer to everything but she’s been screaming at me metaphorically over the phone ‘why aren’t you guys wearing masks?’.”

The Fianna Fail leader said Singapore has been far more transparent when clusters have emerged in different districts. Early on in the outbreak, Martin called on the government to make public the towns, regions and workplaces where clusters have been discovered.

“There’s considerable compliance not because of an authoritarian culture but rather because people feel this is the best way to do it,” he said, speaking about Singapore.

Martin said at the outset of this crisis, all political parties said they would adhere to the public health advice, however, he admitted that one might privately have a different perspective about the different decisions being taken.

As the country moves into the phased lifting, he said he wants to see “stronger sector-by-sector protocol” in terms of guidelines about reopening.

He said it is time to evaluate the first phase, stating that there has been significant progress being made with the ICU numbers, which are now close to the 70 mark. There were 70 people in ICU when the lockdown restrictions were put in place.

Martin added that the hospitals have not been overwhelmed, as was the initial fear. He added that the ball was dropped in terms of nursing homes, and said he was not happy with how the Leaving Certificate was handled. 

Preparations around the next six months need to be put in place, said Martin, who said there are huge costs associated with the crisis, particularly around testing and contact tracing.

He said the turn around time has to be shortened considerably, stating it is key for reopening the economy.

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