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Coronavirus restrictions need to be lifted 'sooner rather than later' - senior FF TD

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Deserted: Our shopping streets may be empty but businesses still need help to plan for after the crisis. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Deserted: Our shopping streets may be empty but businesses still need help to plan for after the crisis. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

Deserted: Our shopping streets may be empty but businesses still need help to plan for after the crisis. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A SENIOR Fianna Fáil TD has urged the government to speed up the lifting of the coronavirus lock-down while raising concern that too much responsibility has been "casually delegated" to public health advisers.

Jim O'Callaghan told the Dáil that restrictions need be lifted "sooner rather than later" and that "we're going to have to live a certain amount of risk."

He asked Communications Minister Richard Bruton to bring that message to Cabinet.

Mr O'Callaghan said he's even more concerned about the lockdown than he was when he spoke in the Dáil three weeks ago.

He said he's "extremely concerned" about its impact on young people, the elderly and people suffering from non-Covid-19 illnesses, as well as the economy and people who are financially insecure.

Mr O'Callaghan added: "I'm also concerned that too much responsibility has been casually delegated by government to our public health advisers."

He said the lockdown measures made sense in March but "Now I think we need to recognise that the process of lifting the lockdown provisions needs to be expedited."

He said the number of deaths has fallen significantly and the number of coronavirus cases are down too.

"It's also important to recognise that it's the job of our public health advisers to provide public health advice but it is not their job to weigh that public health advice along with other factors.

"That's the function of government."

He said the government needs to introduce "some balance and proportionality into the decisions it's about to make as to when and whether the restrictions should be lifted.

"And as I say I think they need to be lifted sooner rather than later," Mr O'Callaghan said.

He added: "The reality is that we're going to have to continue to live with Covid.

"We're going to have to recognise that we're going to have to live a certain amount of risk."

He said it's never been the case that public health advice was mandatory.

Mr O'Callaghan said the lockdown was introduced to prevent hospital intensive care units being overrun and its purpose can't now be transformed to stopping people from getting sick.

He said the government has been "extremely cautious" and he can understand that given that politicians are "heavily criticised" if they get it wrong.

But he argued there needs to be less caution when I come speeding up the lifting of restrictions.

"I think there will be a benefit if they are lifted sooner rather than later and they should not be left in place simply because that is the cautious and safe thing to do."

Earlier Independent TD Matte McGrath criticised the role of public health officials.

It came after ministers met Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and he said he wouldn't recommend reducing the two metre social distancing rule.

Mr McGrath told the Dáil: "I see the Cabinet was overruled again today by Dr Holohan. Who is in charge here?...

"By goodness, it is strange that one man can dictate to seven or eight members of the Cabinet and the whole country. It is time this nonsense were stopped and that the people were supported."

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