Government accused of ‘mixed messaging’ over Covid restrictions

The Government has been accused of “mixed messaging” on new Covid regulations by Sinn Fein after the Tanaiste said that tightening restrictions at the current time was “peculiar”.

A Government minister has also said that the restrictions introduced by the Government on Friday will be lifted if concerns about the Omicron variant do not materialise.

A range of restrictions will be in place from December 7 to January 9, including the closing of nightclubs and new limits on household gatherings.

The rules will see the hospitality sector largely revert to the situation before October 22, with a maximum of six adults per table and no multiple table bookings.

Leo Varadkar told the Sunday Business Post that the timing of new Covid restrictions was ‘peculiar’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

(PA Wire)

It comes amid concern about increased socialising at Christmas and the threat posed by the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.

In an interview with the Sunday Business Post, Leo Varadkar said: “I think it is peculiar that we are tightening restrictions at a time when things are improving, from cases, ICU figures, and hospitalisations.”

However, the Tanaiste also said that he understood why the decisions were being made due to fears after last Christmas resulted in an upsurge of virus cases.

Speaking on RTE’s The Week in Politics, Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, said the decisions made by cabinet were unanimous.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said cabinet decisions on Covid restrictions were unanimous (Brian Lawless/PA)

(PA Wire)

He added: “They were based on the public health advice that we have received from Nphet. We value and respect our public health experts who provide advice to Government.

“We have had a good working relationship with Nphet over a long period of time and it is vitally important that that is maintained because I believe, in general, the public trusts our public health advisors and that relationship between Government and Nphet has been at the heart of our approach to managing this pandemic.

“I fully support the decisions that we have made. We engaged with Nphet on Friday and they explained very clearly the rationale and the logic behind the recommendations.

“It is essentially precautionary in nature, this is a pre-emptive move by Government based on advice because there are a significant number of questions we cannot yet answer in relation to the Omicron variant.”

Mr McGrath said: “We expect to get some of those answers quite quickly and, if those answers are benign or favourable and some of the concerns in relation to Omicron do not materialise, then I anticipate that some of these restrictions can be removed quite quickly.

“Nphet’s modelling is an inexact science, they are making forecasts with a whole set of variables, many of whom are simply not known.

“It is one factor in the overall set of considerations. It represents a valuable input. Of course, it is not perfect, no set of forecasting can be perfect.”

The reality is that this kind of mixed messaging is of benefit to no-one

Mairead Farrell, Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein TD Mairead Farrell told the programme that the irony of Government complaints about leaks would not be lost on anyone, when it “had been plagued by leaks”.

She said: “The reality is that this kind of mixed messaging is of benefit to no-one.

“It adds to the concerns of the general public, of businesses that are trying to stay open, of people who are wondering if they are going to have a job next week.

“It is incredibly frustrating for the general public.

“Having mixed messages now is not helpful to businesses or to those people who are going to work to try and earn a living.”

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