'A very very small window in this watershed moment' to prevent further Covid-19 restrictions - Simon Harris

Higher education Minister Simon Harris has said that the country is in a “watershed moment” in regards to the coronavirus pandemic. peak...

Higher education Minister Simon Harris has said that the country is in a “watershed moment” in regards to the coronavirus pandemic.

peaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, he said additional measures banning household visits are in an effort to “stretch” Level 3 restrictions.

“What we have to do is try and stretch level 3. What can we possibly get out of level 3 to see if we don’t have to go further? But we won’t be found wanting if we do have to go further,” he said.

He said that there is a “very, very small moment” to prevent the lockdown the country was put under in the spring.

“But there’s a window here, a very very small window in this watershed moment to try and stop going back to the very very restricted situation we saw in March and April,” Minister Harris said.

He added that he was “conflicted” on CMO Dr Tony Holohan’s advice nearly two weeks ago which recommended the entire country to be raised to Level 5 restrictions.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, leading epidemiologist Dr Gabriel Scally called for an all-island approach to the pandemic.

He said that the pandemic is at a “ridiculous situation” on this island, and said it was “disturbing” a joint approach was not being taken.

Dr Scally said that during the foot and mouth outbreak, a joint approach was taken.

“If this was an animal disease affecting sheep or chicken or cattle, you could bet your life that there would be an integrated approach North and South.

“And a huge amount of joint working and joint testing. That is not happening. It’s very, very disturbing,” he said.

“Several people from the very beginning, myself included, said the best way of dealing with this was on an all-island basis. That has never happened.”

He also said that there is “secrecy” around the testing and tracking system in Northern Ireland.

“It looks like they’re not doing the job of contact tracing properly and breaking those chains of transmission” he said.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said that the coronavirus is “far more complicated” than the foot and mouth disease.

“He is right and Gabriel Scally talks a lot of sense.

“Covid is far more complicated than [foot and mouth disease]. We do have a lot of cooperation between [North and South].”

He added that there is “discussion” across the border in regards to testing and tracing.

“On the cross border issue, there is discussion in terms of tracing across the border. We now have a Covid app in both north and south that talks to each other and we are doing a number of things on a cross border basis but we need to do more.”

Minister Coveney said that “enormous numbers” in Northern Ireland are “really worrying”.

“Our government is very anxious to do more to try to have a collective approach both north and South.

“At the moment, we do have enormous numbers which are really worrying in Northern Ireland. If those positivity numbers were transferred down south we’d be talking about over 3,000 people a day testing positive, so that is worrying.

He added that the pandemic may “get worse before it gets better”.

“The Taoiseach was right last night – it may get worse before it gets better. People may need to think carefully now about how do they respond to the challenges that the government is actually putting to the public in terms of adherence to the new regulations,” the Minister said

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Newsrust: 'A very very small window in this watershed moment' to prevent further Covid-19 restrictions - Simon Harris
'A very very small window in this watershed moment' to prevent further Covid-19 restrictions - Simon Harris
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