Zero-Covid island policy not ‘achievable politically’, committee hears

Zero-Covid island policy not ‘achievable politically’, committee hears
Coronavirus

A zero Covid island policy is not possible to achieve due to political differences between the two administrations on the island of Ireland, a committee has heard.

Chief economist at the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) Dan O’Brien told the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 that the chances of coronavirus being eliminated on the island is low.

The committee discussed the implications of a Zero-Covid island policy, which has been supported by a group of scientists and academics.

The Republic of Ireland has a “green list” of countries that people can travel from to Ireland without the need to quarantine for two weeks but the list does not include Britain.

Mr O’Brien said: “I think the chances of the success of a zero-Covid island policy is very low and that is because there is two jurisdictions on this island.

“In the northern jurisdiction, there seems to be very little probability of the devolved government there agreeing to sealing off travel with Britain.

“It does not seem to be achievable politically or otherwise.”

Meanwhile, Oxford University Professor Carl Heneghan told the Covid-19 committee than any comparison between the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand regarding the pandemic, is “unhelpful”.

Prof Heneghan said: “Lots of people are using New Zealand as an example (regarding the elimination of Covid-19).

“Ireland and New Zealand have very similar populations, about 4.79 million people.

“Ireland is more densely populated island than New Zealand.

“You also have to consider that New Zealand’s nearest neighbour is 1,000 km away and that it’s Australia, one of the least densely populated countries in the world.

“So I think that any comparison with New Zealand is unhelpful because not only do they have to lock down, they are locking out.”

Mr O’Brien said time would tell if New Zealand’s approach to handling the pandemic has worked.

“What happens to New Zealand if a year from now it is successful and has not has a single case but the rest of the world has opened up but it has to continue this policy of effectively sealing itself off from the world.”

“Does that have to go on for a year or two years or do they eventually say this is not sustainable, they have to open up and go through what the rest of the world has gone through?

“I think the chances of that sort of policy is low,” said Mr O’Brien.

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