Cork Fine Gael TD defends criticism of government's travel advice

Cork Fine Gael TD defends criticism of government's travel advice

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke said the HSE and the Department of Health need to move quickly to resolve conflicting health advice. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

A government party TD has defended flagging concerns about contradictory advice which is being issued to people arriving in Ireland after opposition TDs said he and his party should be ensuring such problems don’t arise in the first place.

Fine Gael’s health spokesperson Colm Burke said he has as much right as any opposition TD to publicly flag concerns about the handling of the pandemic. And he said it’s even more important that this issue is dealt with urgently after details of a ‘super-spreader’ event emerged over the weekend.

Public health experts in the mid-west said a man who failed to self-isolate after returning to Ireland infected at least 56 people in 10 households and on a sports team with coronavirus.

Mr Burke said the HSE and the Department of Health now need to move quickly to resolve the conflicting health advice issue after he was shown “confusing and contradictory” text messages which are being sent to the mobile phones of people arriving into Ireland.

The messages wrongly imply that those people can use public transport or visit public places when, in fact, they should be restricting their movements for 14 days.

Mr Burke said: “This issue was brought to my attention. Am I going do the usual backbench stuff and write letters, and keep my mouth shut?

“I’m not prepared to do that.

“I’ve written to the HSE but I’m not going to wait around for a government department to take action. I’m not sitting back, and I’m not prepared to plamás a minister.

My job is to keep everyone on their toes, and the general public’s job is to keep me on my toes 

Currently, all passengers arriving into Ireland from any destination are required to restrict their movements for 14 days as no country is on the Department of Foreign Affair’s Green List.

Government advice

The advice provided on government websites on restricting movements is clear. It states that you should not use public transport and should not visit shops unless absolutely necessary. You are also allowed to exercise while keeping two metres from everyone else.

But Mr Burke said he has seen texts sent to people who have filled out locator forms before arriving into the country which gives them the impression that they can go about their business freely when they should be staying at a place of residence for 14 days unless it absolutely essential to go to the shops or pharmacies.

He said he has yet to establish who is responsible for sending the texts after the HSE said it was not a matter for them.

“This information needs to be rectified immediately by the Department of Health for all arriving into the country,” he said.

Sinn Féin's Thomas Gould.
Sinn Féin's Thomas Gould.

But Sinn Féin’s Thomas Gould said Mr Burke needs reminding about who’s in government.

“Deputy Colm Burke is a prominent Fine Gael politician. He is now publicly calling on the government to rectify information given to those entering the state. Fine Gael have been in government for the duration of this pandemic.

It would serve Deputy Burke and his colleagues well to remember this and focus on rectifying their own mistakes, not attempting to deflect and shift blame

“People can see through these petty games. It seems that Fine Gael are trying to distance themselves from their government colleagues, Fianna Fáil. Let’s not forget that they have essentially been in government together for the last five years.”

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