Zero-Covid strategy 'isn't achievable' for Ireland, says Minister

Zero-Covid strategy 'isn't achievable' for Ireland, says Minister

Adopting a zero-Covid strategy “isn’t achievable” for Ireland, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney has said.

Adopting a zero-Covid strategy “isn’t achievable” for Ireland, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking to members of Cork Chamber at a virtual meeting this morning, Minister Coveney addressed the mounting calls that have come for Government to adopt a zero-Covid plan, similar to Australia and New Zealand.

“This is a difficult time for people and the Government’s job is to try to keep people together and focused on what we need to do now to suppress this virus.

“I accept that as time goes on of course people become more questioning of Government decisions and we’re certainly seeing that now.

“We’re seeing some people, some very credible people, calling for a zero-Covid strategy in Ireland,” he said.

Minister Coveney said adopting a zero-Covid approach would mean sealing Ireland off from the rest of the world for “an indefinite period”, which he said would not be “workable”.

“The truth is, of course, we need a suppression strategy, which is what we have, and that’s why so many people are working from home and are restricted in their moments, but if you have a zero-Covid strategy, that means your target is to have no Covid at all and to maintain that position and the truth is that effectively means Ireland sealing itself off from the rest of the world, including Northern Ireland, for an indefinite period into the future.

“We don’t believe that that’s workable,” he said.

“Instead, we believe we can get, and we’ve shown this in the last two waves of infection, we’ve shown that we can get numbers down dramatically to very low levels, particularly we saw that over the summer, with the right restrictions applied properly.

“I believe we can get there again and I believe we can get there within the next few weeks and short number of months and then we need to keep it at that very low level, but I think the idea that if we have and get to a point where we have no Covid, or very very small numbers, that Ireland can simply seal ourselves off to the rest of the world until the rest of the world or at least until the rest of Europe has no Covid either isn’t achievable but that’s not to say that we don’t have an aggressive suppression strategy,” he continued.

Yesterday, the Government announced an extension of Ireland’s Level 5 restrictions until March 5 as well as a raft of new measures to tackle non-essential travel.

Speaking today, Minister Coveney acknowledged the immense toll the pandemic is taking on people.

“I think the third wave is very different to the first and second wave.

“I think people are tired, worried, they’re upset.

“The pressure on so many people and families after a year of this pandemic is really taking its toll and we’re very conscious of that,” he said.

“The country is living through a trauma and it is the responsibility of Government to try to give clear direction and make the right decisions for the country and believe me, we’re spending many hours trying to do that and taking advice from experts before we finalise decisions.”

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