There are more effective, evidence-based and successful ways to respond to Covid-19 than “an arbitrary national lockdown”, according to the Irish SME Association (ISME).
The association, which represents more than 10,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Ireland has been very reluctant to engage in criticism of the government’s handling of the crises thus far its CEO Neil McDonnell said.
"However, it is no longer a sustainable position for us to remain silent and we can no longer tolerate a situation where the State's only response to Covid-19 is to repeatedly furlough tens of thousands of workers."
Today, the group has written a letter to all TDs in Ireland expressing its “grave concern” at the latest national lockdown, requesting that TDs to use their position to ensure that the Government responds in a more “effective, strategic and sympathetic manner” to the coronavirus pandemic in future.
The letter outlines a number of the group's concerns, including the closure of ‘non-essential’ retail and personal grooming once again. This, they wrote, is despite the HSE’s epidemiological data demonstrating that these sectors were responsible for only 0.3% of the cases of Covid-19 transmission.
“Behaviours across other elements of society have caused a resurgence of Covid-19 in Ireland; not the retail and grooming sectors, which have been arbitrarily penalised,” they said.
The group said a lockdown is a natural public health response to rapidly increasing infection rates, but it is not “the appropriate solution.”.
In countries that have successfully tackled Covid-19, lockdown is used to create breathing space for public health services, while control measures are put in place, they said.
“This successful model has not been replicated in Ireland.”
“The period following our spring lockdown has been wasted and a robust testing, tracing, isolation and control (TTIC) system has not been implemented.”
“Ireland is running with lockdown as the only shot in its gun,” Mr McDonnel said.
“This approach is a recipe for failure, and it will cause untold misery, ill-health, and recession throughout society.”
While NPHET is composed of “highly qualified, well-meaning, devoted and intelligent” public servants, the ISME CEO said they are “completely unaware of the ruin resulting from successive lockdowns.”
“This lockdown is the last chance for NPHET and the HSE to put in place a robust plan for living with Covid-19. If this is not done by the end of this lockdown in December, the Government must take action, reduce and reconstitute NPHET, and ensure it has access to expert, peer-reviewed, external advisors.”