Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, has expressed his fear of a third lockdown in early 2021 unless urgent action is pursued to analyse the information gathered from the 67,000 Covid-19 positive cases and see how best to avoid the spread of the virus.
“A huge amount of information is being collected by the 11 contact tracing centres across the country into how people who tested positive for Covid-19 picked up the virus in the first place. However to date there has been no deep analysis of this information along with laboratory, hospital and digital data on population movements across Ireland over the last eight months.
“This information must be used to redesign the Covid-19 rules not just on the run into Christmas but more importantly to ensure that we do not have a further lockdown in 2021 when we face further surges in virus infection rates.
“UCC researchers who correctly predicted the surge in Covid-19 infection in October/November have also predicted two further surges in infection in February and May/June. It is vital that we now put very specific measures in place that would save Christmas but also protect against future lockdowns next year.
“We need to design a system which means that people who test positive and their close contacts are locked down instead of the current blunt county-wide or country-wide lockdowns which have not been effective in preventing the surge of infection last month.
“The current restrictions and the ones planned for Christmas are all having a direct impact on the mental health of everyone in this country; as well as postponing vital medical care for those with illnesses such as cancer.á
“These restrictions are also grinding the viability out of many businesses, a lot of which have been family owned for generations, and as a result we need a more targeted set of restrictions which are proven to work here in Ireland.
“Unless we act quickly to analyse the huge amount of information which the Government now holds on this virus, then we risk adding to the economic devastation of many local businesses and the physical and mental health of our people,” Deputy Naughten. asserted.
Reinstatement of Disabled driver scheme
Meanwhile, Deputy Naughten has welcomed the reinstatement of the Disabled Driver Scheme for which he has campaigned since its withdrawal earlier in the year, confirmation which was relayed by Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe.
“Over the last number of months, in my capacity as Chair of the Dáil Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands, I have campaigned for the reinstatement of the Disabled Drivers Scheme as its suspension was effectively marooning people with a disability who did not have direct access to public transport,” Deputy Naughten said.
Minister Donohoe, responding to Deputy Naughten during Committee Stage of the Finance Bill, stated that he had instructed the HSE to start processing applications for the Primary Medical Cert in the same manner as they did before, but he also went on to state that he intends to carry out a review of the Disabled Drivers Scheme next year.
Deputy Naughten, while welcoming the announcement, questioned if public health doctors will be in a position to process a backlog of 1500 applicants and if the same interpretation of the rule will apply.
Responding Minister Paschal Donohoe stated that he is not aware of any problem with Public Health Doctors processing applications and that the rules that applied last year for both applications and appeals will continue to apply until the review of the scheme is completed next year.