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Second lockdown not the solution to tackling COVID-19 says Clare TD

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*Photograph: John Mangan

Ireland’s second lockdown to lower the spread of COVID-19 has been described by a Clare TD as unsustainable and “a failure to respond”.

As of midnight, Ireland became the first country in Europe to have a second lockdown as the Republic moved to the highest level of restrictions on the Living with COVID-19 framework.

Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND) has maintained the approach of NPHET and the Irish Government is not working as he criticised the announcement of new restrictions. “It has been the road we’ve been on for some time and it hasn’t succeeded. I have huge concern and sympathy for people who get COVID-19 and I accept it has a very detrimental affect in the short-term and in some cases the long-term but it is how we deal with that threat. Announcing a complete shutdown is not a response it is a failure to respond rather than trying to keep sectors open and let the State deal with the issue, instead the State is simply shutting down”.

On Wednesday, The HSE was to send a text message to between 2,000 and 2,500 people who have already been informed by text of a positive COVID-19 infection asking them to tell their own close contacts to contact their GPs immediately to seek a Covid-19 test. The failure of the HSE to alert the thousands of close contacts results from an unprecedented number of confirmed cases causing a backlog from Friday to Sunday.

Deputy McNamara said this development brought into “sharper focus” the consistent issues regarding contact tracing. “We should look at what’s working for countries instead of what isn’t, clearly there is a huge problem with our contact tracing, Germany had a bigger problem with COVID than us but they don’t have as big a problem now with detected cases, we need to look at what solutions they have. Our testing system isn’t the issue, it is the tracing and that has been clear for some time”.

He believed the Government expects to introduce further lockdowns but stated, “I don’t think this lockdown is feasible or sustainable”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, the Scariff native also expressed his view that the introduction of on-the-spot €500 fines for the breaching of restrictions won’t work. “Our fine systems doesn’t work, there are millions of euros outstanding at the moment that haven’t been paid. The Gardaí as it stands don’t have the resources to execute the bench warrants in a certain proportion of cases. People seem to think our health service is a finite resource and we need to do everything possible to ensure it isn’t overrun but do those policy makers and decision makers not realise that our Garda resources are finite and asking them to police public health matters on top of all the policing that they ordinarily do isn’t going to work”.

Long-lasting affects in a number of sectors are to be expected as a consequence of the second lockdown, the Chair of the Dáil’s COVID-19 committee predicted including the economy. “We’re already in a recession. Dan O’Brien is forecasting that it will tip us into one of the deepest recessions the State has ever seen, it is a failing of the State that emigration has been the pressure valve but that pressure valve won’t be there because the places young people would typical emigrate to are also in recession or quarantining and not allowing people in. It has the potential to lead to a very difficult and unsustainable end-point”.

Local activists in the county had stated that Deputy McNamara was populist with his stance on COVID-19. He disagreed with such views and clarified that he is not a COVID-19 denier. “I’ve said what I’ve said consistently from the start, I’ve said that legal measures don’t work and ever-increasing legal measures have not worked. Most of the people who have said stuff are politically aligned but everybody is entitled to their view, I don’t think what I’m saying is universally popular and it certainly wasn’t popular when I was saying it in April or May, I simply don’t think you can deal with public health matters through penal legislation, it doesn’t work”.

“We need to modify people’s behaviour, the way to do that is through information campaigns and informing people of the risks, it involved NPHET publishing risks to back up their evidence which they have consistently failed to, unless there is a proper information campaign backed up by clear evidence people’s behaviour is not going to be modified. The kind of people who might be frightened by fines are already adhering, the kind of people who would not be frightened by fines are not adhering to a large extent,” he concluded.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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