Minister McConalogue confident Covid-19 infections will be down by December
The government did not act on the NPHET recommended four-week period of Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions two weeks ago to try and give additional time for the already in place Level 3 restrictions to work, according to Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Speaking to Donegal Live, Minster McConalogue said: “The government wanted people to increase their disciplines in Level 3 and try and give time for that to work because a move to Level 5 is a big decision, one which the government was reluctant to take because it very much understands the impact it has on people's lives and the impact it has on business as well.
“It was not a decision that was taken lightly and I think it was appropriate to give additional time to try and bring the numbers down at Level 3 and while Level 3 was showing it could have impact in stabilising figures and it had merit in that regard, it is very difficult to bring high figures down within Level 3 and that is what had been seen in terms of the evidence so far.
“So, the decision to move to Level 5 was taken to bring the numbers of infection down to a lower level and then seek to manage them by going back to Level 3 in due course.
“At the current rate of high levels and also concerningly the current increasing numbers that Level 3 was not going to bring the situation under control,” said Mr McConalogue.
Minister McConalogue cautioned that the financial mitigations put in place following the move to Level 5 were “costly and expensive from a public exchequer point of view”.
He added: “However, they are very necessary in terms of supporting businesses through the the new Covid Support Scheme, which allows a weekly payment of 10% of weekly turnover from the same period last year. The Pandemic unemployment payment has also gone back up to €350 for anyone who would have been earning more than €400 a week if they had been working.
“It in no way compensates businesses. It is in no way a replacement for businesses being able to trade and being able to do what they wish to do and be open but it is a strong effort by the government to try and support them and reflect the tremendous pressure they are under and to try and keep them in place until they can reopen and get back to trading again.”
Christmas was the other reason the government moved to Level 5, Minister McConalogue said.
He added: “In the past 10 days, we have seen the Covid-19 figure of infections nationally per 100,000 increase from 128 ten days ago, to 250 today. So, it has almost doubled in 10 days. The government moved now in order to ensure we could be back in a good place by December. That is why we thought about six weeks at Level 5 on the basis that we get infection levels down to a level that can be managed, in time for December 1, to allow businesses to open up again and trade and allow people to have a good Christmas and good December period, with manageable, low infection rates.
“I think if everyone works in a strong way and takes their responsibilities seriously, everyone, not just the 95%, if everybody in the community understands their responsibility to one another, I am confident this will work and we will get down infection rates down by December 1 and allow people to have a good Christmas and have the Christmas period to look forward to,” said Charlie McConalogue.