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'We need to get a plan B': Senator Regina Doherty calls on government to end use of 'rolling lockdowns'

The former minister urged the government to change its approach to Covid-19.

Image: RollingNews.ie

SEANAD LEADER REGINA Doherty has called on the government to “get a plan B” to manage its response to Covid-19, saying continuous lockdowns were not working.

The former Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection urged the government to change its strategy because the current response is asking “an awful lot” of the Irish public.

Speaking on RTÉ radio this evening, Doherty claimed that people are now frustrated because case numbers are no longer falling after four weeks of Level 5 restrictions.

“Rolling lockdown is not working, and I don’t just mean in the numbers; I mean in the psyche and in the co-operation of Irish people,” she said. “They’re frustrated by it.”

The Fine Gael senator echoed comments made by her party colleague Eoghan Murphy, who said yesterday that a change in government policy would not be an admission that policies used so far are wrong.

Doherty called for a strategy that did not involve continuous lockdowns, saying that Ireland needed a “common purpose” that would allow people to socialise and for businesses to remain open while also protecting vulnerable people.

And although she acknowledged that decisions so far have been made in the public interest, she criticised the government for what she said was an apparent lack of alternative.

“I think it’s quite obvious that we don’t have a plan B. We need to get a plan B,” she said. 

“I think we understand that there is an acceptable level and an unacceptable level.

“But where you have understandable lapses from individuals at the moment, and unfortunately the finger-pointing and the shaming of people, is because we’re being asked an awful lot. And the awful lot doesn’t seem to be producing the results.”

Doherty’s comments follow remarks by Taoiseach Micheál Martin that exiting the current restrictions and preparing for Christmas will be “very challenging for all”.

Ireland is due to leave level five restrictions on 1 December, with the government set to announce plans to move forward next week.

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But public health chiefs have warned that the progress in bringing down levels of the virus made during lockdown has stalled and say the next two weeks will be critical.

Doherty’s party colleague and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe also warned that the country needs to look “beyond Christmas” ahead of a decision on lifting pandemic restrictions next week.

“We do need to look beyond Christmas itself. And be aware that the medium-term goal in advance of a vaccine being broadly available is to get the spread of the disease down to the lowest level possible,” he said.

“Christmas is so important from a family point of view, from a wellbeing point of view, and for some from a worship point of view. So I recoil from saying that we’re in some way caught up with it.

“But if you talk to somebody who’s running a business, somebody’s who’s running a restaurant and is thinking of reopening it, they do want certainty beyond the 25 December.”

With reporting from Press Association.

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