Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has warned the people of Ireland to prepare for a number of “very testing and difficult months” ahead after Christmas as Ireland prepare’s for Level 5 of the Government's Plan for Living with Covid-19 once more.
Ms McDonald urged people to enjoy Christmas safely but advised the start of 2021 will likely be tough due to further Covid-19 restrictions as cases surged to 970 yesterday, with an additional 13 deaths.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, Ms McDonald said: “I think people heading into Christmas now know the rate of transmission is really high, with the added concern of the new strain in Britain.
“I think the wise approach is to enjoy Christmas safely - enjoy the access to friends and family in a safe way - and then prepare themselves for another number of very difficult and testing months.”
The Sinn Féin leader said the party are “frustrated, disappointed and alarmed” that the DUP and others on the Northern Ireland Executive voted against what Ms McDonald called “a common sense proposal” to stop flights from Britain entering any part of Ireland.
The health service in the north continues to be under pressure with Covid-19 cases while flights from Britain have not been suspended despite fears over the new mutant variant of the virus.
“This isn’t about politics, it is a practical necessity. It’s something we will turn towards again and will continue to look for. We hope the Taoiseach will hope us in our endeavours,” Deputy McDonald said.
Ms McDonald was insistent that the island of Ireland was “not where we need to be” in terms of the tracking and tracing system of people that are close contacts of positive cases or of people that fly into Ireland and fill out locator forms.
“Guidance, whatever its nature, unless it is properly enforced and invigilated, is a very poor response. We do not have the kind of tracking and tracing systems across this island that we require.
“That leaves us always vulnerable, and means that guidance - however well intended - is patchy and begs questions of public credibility.
Mary Lou believes to “keep any of us safe on this island, you have to keep us all safe” and said it made “plain sense” to adopt an all-island approach to public health measures. Particularly for people that live in border areas, but on the island as a whole.
“I support Dublin and Belfast getting their act together and having the single all-island approach we need to keep people safe.
Ms McDonald says that the issue of schools reopening in the New Year should be revisited after Christmas and said that any suggestion that the new strain being more transmissible and “more damaging for younger people” means it must be looked at very carefully.