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Richard Boyd Barrett calls for long-term lockdown to ‘save summer’

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Ireland’s strict lockdown should continue until community transmission of Covid-19 is eliminated, People Before Profit has said.

Richard Boyd Barrett called for the Government to abandon its policy of living with Covid and instead implement a zero-Covid approach in a bid to “save summer”.

He made the comments at the launch of the party’s updated zero-Covid policy document outside Government Buildings in Dublin on Friday.

Mr Boyd Barrett said the country was now in a “really frightening” situation where Covid-19 was “out-of-control”.

“There has to be recognition that the Government’s living with Covid policy has failed and failed disastrously. You cannot live alongside Covid-19,” he said.

“We need to embrace a different strategy that’s about eliminating community transmission of Covid-19 so we can get beyond the terrible cycle of lockdown and surge.”

He said a zero-Covid policy was a policy of saying “we have to start chasing Covid-19 to eliminate it rather than Covid-19 chasing us in and out of one surge and one lockdown after another.

“It’s a policy to save the summer because at this stage we are almost certain if we follow the current policy we’re going to face another surge, another lockdown come the summer.”

He said adopting a zero-Covid approach would mean lockdown continuing for at least a couple of months, if not longer.

“We’re probably facing into that anyway,” he said. “The idea that the current lockdown is going to end by the end of January that is fantastical.

It was very clear talking to Dr Tony Holohan at the leaders’ briefing they couldn’t even say with certainty that we’d be out of this by St Patrick’s Day.”

Travel restrictions

As part of the zero-Covid strategy Mr Boyd Barrett said all non-essential travel must stop: “The idea that we just pick one or two countries to limit entry into the country is nonsense.

“There should be no non-essential travel. Other European countries are already starting to do that. Germany in effect is doing it.”

He also said the Government needed to enforce that non-essential workplaces are closed during the lockdown.

Rise TD Paul Murphy said the responsibility for the current predicament lies “very firmly” with the Government which made “disastrous decisions with deadly consequences”.

“They were warned by Nphet. They blatantly ignored those warnings and went against Nphet’s advice,” he said.

“The Government is trying to shirk that responsibility and that’s completely wrong.”

He said many of the main opposition parties had largely gone along with the yo-yo lockdown approach of the Government and he called on Sinn Fein to throw its “substantial weight” behind a zero-Covid strategy.

People Before Profit’s Dublin North West representative, Conor Reddy, a PhD Researcher in Immunology from Trinity College Dublin, said the country would not vaccinate its way out of the issue.

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“Following the government’s ‘living with Covid’ strategy until we have completed achieved population-level immunity by vaccination will take months and potentially several more cycles of surge and lockdown,” he said.

“We need a strategy to eliminate community transmission of the virus like Australia, New Zealand and many Asian countries have achieved – having vaccines on hand will accelerate this process and in turn, having lower levels of transmission will aid the immunisation effort.

“If we commit to a new approach now, we can break the cycle of rolling surges and lockdowns and make this our last lockdown.”

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