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Thursday 28 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at Leinster House this evening
# Leinster House
Martin says country 'not where it would like to be' in terms of testing volume and turnaround times
Speaking this evening at Leinster House, Martin said ‘there’s still a significant degree of work to be done’.

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has said the country is “not where it would like to be” in terms of the volume of testing that is being carried out and the turnaround time of the tests.

Following a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other party leaders about the ongoing Covid-19 crisis “it seems to me that there’s still a significant degree of work to be done.”

Martin said the party leaders were briefed on about lab capacity issues in terms of both procuring more labs and liquid reagents.

“So, suffice to say, we’re not, I would think as a country, perhaps not where it would like to be in terms of the volume of testing to the turnaround in terms of testing, which today, the objective is to get to a tighter turnaround to 48 hours. We’re obviously, clearly given the anecdotal stories we’re hearing from people around the country, some distance away from that,” said Martin.

The Fianna Fáil leader said today’s meeting with the Taoiseach focused a lot on the nursing home situation and the 137 clusters.

He said HSE boss Paul Reid made the point that extra infection control teams had been brought in to help.

On the broader economic front, the discussion was focused on the various anomalies withing the wage subsidy scheme, as well as “looming difficulties” arising in the agricultural sector involving beef prices and dairy prices.

He said a comprehensive briefing on the agriculture sector will take place next week. 

Martin said the party leaders were also given reassurances about the ICU capacity around the country.

“There is still capacity within the system, we were assured. The big issue around ICU will be the continuing upskilling and training of staff for the ICU onwards and across the country,” he said.

Martin reiterated what Health Minister Simon Harris said earlier today that the restrictions will not be lifted tomorrow.

Harris said:

To be blunt and honest with people, the restrictions that are in place are not going to be lifted tomorrow, we’re going to have to keep at it. 

“What we’re hoping to be able to do is show people what the journey looks like … if we keep at this for another couple of weeks, where does it bring us, what does success look like?

“The virus is probably going to be here for a long time, but we need to get to a point where your mum can see the grandkids again, even if the virus is still in Ireland.” 

Martin said “one can anticipate that the restrictions will be renewed”, stating that the government will give more clarity on that this evening or tomorrow.

Harris said he hopes the country will get to a point where “we know even if people get the virus they’ll be looked after well, the health service won’t be overwhelmed, we kind of get it under control”.

Assistant Secretary for the Department of An Taoiseach Liz Canavan said today that work is underway to map out how the restrictions might be lifted, on a phased basis. 

Canavan said today the next phase will be how to manage matters when some of those restrictions begin to lift.

“I suppose at the beginning, we might have all thought that would happen in one go but we’re more clear now it’s going to happen in a much more phased way. So there’s ongoing work, and there are a number of subgroups looking at a range of issues,” she said.

Social Democrat’s co-leader Catherine Murphy said today’s meeting gave her more more confidence in the government’s ability to deal with this crisis, stating that “there’s a little bit more control this week than there was last week in terms of supplies, in terms of testing and the actions that are being taken in relation to the nursing homes”. 

Murphy said she raised the issue of having a roadmap to recovery, stating that people appear to be more aware now that this is going to be a phased process, rather than all restrictions being lifted in one day. She said the public need to hear more about the planning that is going on in the background.

The issue of long tailbacks on the roads due to Garda check points was an issue that was also raised with the Taoiseach today, with a focus on the impact of frontline health workers and other essential workers being stuck in traffic coming home from work. 

Murphy said there was an undertaking from the Taoiseach that the matter would be raised with the Justice Minister and the gardaí.

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