Government warned to review 'blunt' Covid-19 restrictions

Number of people on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) rose by 2,000 to 352,078 last week
Government warned to review 'blunt' Covid-19 restrictions

Gardaí check the numbers in a South King Street pub prior to the Level 5 restrictions. File picture: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

Even with news of a third successful vaccine, the Government has been warned to learn from its mistakes in using blunt restrictions to fight the Covid-19 pandemic because of the damage already inflicted on many jobs.

Economist Jim Power said that the latest vaccine news from AstraZeneca cannot come soon enough for the beleaguered Irish economy but he fears many jobs will not survive even if level 5 restrictions were to be eased next week.

The hopes of an economic transformation sometime next year were boosted as AstraZeneca, the British company developing a vaccine in partnership with Oxford University, became the third drugs firm in recent weeks to announce promising results. However, shares in AstraZeneca slid almost 4% in London, while the shares of most of the rival drugmakers which have already reported around 95% efficacy with their advanced trials, continued to climb.

The company said the vaccine could be around 90% effective when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose a month later.

During the overall clinical trial on more than 20.000 people, those given the vaccine did not suffer severe coronavirus and nobody required hospital treatment, while there were also no serious safety concerns.

Mr Power said it is questionable whether the level 5 restrictions have worked to suppress the spike in the number of Covid-19 cases. He said a new era of openness is required from the Government about the potential for businesses such as wet pubs to reopen and what may work in suppressing cases under more nuanced restrictions.

The warning comes as the number of people on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) rose by 2,000 to 352,078 last week, the Department of Social Protection said. The new figures mean that, including people on the new wage-subsidy scheme and on the live register count, there are 902,450 people in receipt of some sort of welfare payment during the Level 5 restrictions.

Economist Jim Power fears many jobs will not survive even if level 5 restrictions were to be eased next week. Picture: Regan Stein
Economist Jim Power fears many jobs will not survive even if level 5 restrictions were to be eased next week. Picture: Regan Stein

"The risk is that people working in shops, pubs, restaurants, and hotels will be driven out of work for good," Mr Power said, with "semi-permanent" damage having been inflicted on the economy.

And there was a new warning that the trio of vaccines racing toward approval may reach the masses too late to prevent another round of airline failures.

Meanwhile, one of the most prominent Irish figures in international aviation has claimed airlines will begin requiring vaccination proof before passengers can fly.

Tallaght native Alan Joyce, chief executive of Australian national carrier Qantas, told Australian television that vaccination would be mandatory before flying with the airline.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” he said.

Mr Joyce, who became chief executive of Qantas in 2008, said the idea was gaining support across the industry.

“I think that’s going to be a common thing, talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe,” he said.

It would come in the form of a so-called ‘vaccination passport’, according to Mr Joyce.

“What we are looking at is how you can have a vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, which certifies what the vaccine is, and is it acceptable to the country you are traveling to. There is a lot of logistics and technology that will be needed to be put in place to make this happen but the airlines and governments are working on this as we speak,” he said.

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