Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Questions (708)

Holly Cairns


708. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Health his views on the reopening model introduced by other countries such as France, Italy and China that focused regional variations using registers including the population density of an area and confirmed cases of Covid-19. [11524/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government's approach regarding the reduction of measures introduced to control the spread of Covid-19 is public health-led and grounded in evidence, in line with the recommendations of the WHO, the ECDC and the EU Commission, as well as experience and learning from similar countries, both in Europe and further afield including China and elsewhere.

The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening of Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. Phase 1 was introduced on 18 May 2020 and the Government confirmed the move to Phase 2 of Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business from Monday, 8 June 2020. Information and advice about the restrictions that have been eased as part of Phase 2 and the measures that are now in place are available on the Government website at http://www.gov.ie/phase2

The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease, 

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,

e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

As is clear from the framework described above, it is the Government rather than the Minister or Department of Health that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made. The decisions of the Government are published and the guidance in operation at a point in time are available on the Government website at http://www.gov.ie/

The Government also agreed to bring forward actions in the remaining phases of the Roadmap and plan for four phases rather than the five originally indicated. Work is underway to consider how best to achieve this aim and more information will be made available in the coming weeks.