Sligo/Leitrim TD hits out at government's Covid policy - 'No ambition, no strategy, no leadership'

"As things stand we have up to 60% of hospitalisations potentially for containment purposes alone"

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TD for south Donegal Marc MacSharry promoted to the Fianna Fáil frontbench

Marc MacSharry has questioned the on-going Covid policy

Sligo/Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry has hit out at the government stating  there is "No ambition, no strategy and no leadership," while also saying the restrictions are "draconian".

He told ww.leitrimobserver.ie "Live Horse and Get Grass is not a strategy.  Its time we developed one.

"The National mood is unquestionably very low with ongoing restrictions and lockdowns.  The supply of vaccines and our ability to administer 1m per month should supplies emerge are questionable and certainly not dependable given the form shown by suppliers so far.

"Despite draconian restrictions our numbers remain in the 5-600 range per day.  Hospitalisation rate is down but case numbers have plateaued. 

"I have analysed one acute hospital through data provided from senior physicians I will not name to protect sources.   As of Sunday March 12th, there were 37 in this hospital with Covid.  Six required ICU care with ventilation. Seven were in high dependency with treatment with high flow oxygen and the balance were in simply for containment i.e. 24 or the vast majority had very mild symptoms but are not in a position to go home so as not to spread the virus.  The question must be asked is this the case nationally across our acute hospital network?  If it is the case, and I suspect from data received from physicians it is, then the numbers are superficially high which in turn is used to guide/justify elongation of restrictions etc.

"As more are vaccinated, even with the short supplies we do have, the more vulnerable, elderly and immuno-suppressed will be a diminishing number. Meanwhile numbers will likely continue to rise with increased activity with or without restrictions as people grow increasingly frustrated and less likely to comply with restrictions particularly with  brighter evenings.  With more vaccinated, these cohorts will be less likely to require acute or high dependency care in Hospital or so the data from the sample hospital above indicated on March 12."

The Fianna Fail Deputy went on to say "As things stand therefore, we have up to 60% of hospitalisations potentially for containment purposes alone.  The underlying driver of restrictions so far in this crisis is fear of our acute hospitals being overrun. We have established City West as an overflow for containment  purposes.  We need to establish an equivalent containment facility in each of the regions so when numbers increase as they will those who require mild treatment /containment to protect against spread can be facilitated without putting our acute hospital network unnecessarily under pressure when the 4th wave emerges in the Autumn. 

"The B117 strain is alleged to be in Ireland since last May. It is the dominant strain since December.  While children carry a lower viral dose, about half that of an adult, the B117 strain is twice as transmissible. In essence therefore a child can transmit B117 at least as easily as an adult could transmit the original strain in the community last spring.  Our numbers will therefore continue to rise with a seasonal drop off in June, July and August driven by less indoor activity. It will then as a matter of certainty increase.

"Incredibly in this crisis we never opted to use the proven model of the National Emergency Coordination Group established to be the overarching authority on crises such as Pandemics Terrorism or Weather events.  No one knows why?   Even more worrying is that even still, there is no effective overall National Population Health Executive in place to manage the pandemic.  

"NPHET, is an advisory group to Government, Regional Depts of Public Health have a regional and local impact alone, HSPC is concerned with collecting and collating data and the health and well-being division is not sufficiently trained, resourced or experienced enough to manage a national health crisis like this.  This is before we even consider the socio economic or basic human impacts of what has become the most locked down democratic state in the History of the World.    

"No one has taken or even being charged with overall command. We are governed by optics and where and whenever plausible deniability is assured.  Government blame NPHET, NPHET blame Government ETC ETC.  Meanwhile everyone suffers in the uncertainty of indecision and a strategy-less impasse."

He continued "Total control of the narrative was ceded by Government and the Oireachtas to NPHET and in particular Prof. Nolan, who last March established the national centre for modelling in Maynooth. Dr Glynn and Holohan who are both public health physicians and with others they are defacto leading the country through their modelling and based on a matrix which focuses on mortality rates which are to my mind skewed and inaccurate based on the cause of death by Covid being included with cause of death with covid. Anyone who dares to question is deemed reckless and labelled a header!   

"Of course, none of us would want people to lose their lives but sadly illness and loss of life is a fact of life itself we can only try to protect reduce and mitigate against cause. The matrix being applied in the pandemic is contradictory to that which is routinely employed by our own Prof Barry and the National Centre for Pharmaco/Economics where the cost per year per life saved is a crude but critical part of the analysis used for the approval of breakthrough treatments and drugs.  

"NPHET, NIAC, High Level Task force on Vaccination, the HSE, The Department of health apply no such criteria in setting their recommendations which when made become fait accompli through Government announcements such is the media presence and profile of each of the above and the individuals who form the membership and leadership of each grouping.  They are all the best of professionals and I respect and cherish their contributions but they ought not to run the entire show based on a narrow or flawed matrix."

He added "Much to the annoyance of colleagues and many others since the beginning of the pandemic I have sought a genuine strategy of living with Covid since the beginning.  Sadly, our only strategy has been to wait for a vaccine and lock down. This is no longer acceptable to anyone and so leadership and change is urgently required.  If we continue as we are, we are heading for further lockdowns without any real respite from Covid.  It is the Oireachtas and Governments responsibility to balance the advice of advisors with the needs and requirements of a functioning society.  We have come nowhere near that balance nor it would seem is there any ambition to do so."

He then stated "I appeal earnest to promote and demand each of the following:

A). Take back control of the narrative and communications.  Government to lead,  other bodies to Advise government and cease the media saturation. From 7am – 2pm

B.) establish 6 containment centres like City West nationally for containment and low level treatment for mild symptoms to prevent unnecessary hospitalisation and maintain capacity in our acute hospitals for those who require it.

C.) increase the period between jab 1 and jab 2 to increase protection to a greater number to 10 weeks. This can double the numbers getting up to 85% protection in half the time,

D.) undertake an intensive broadcast / online media campaign for covid mitigation with use of young and old celebrities. Particularly the young for hand washing, sanitisation and mask wearing - without physicians.  Identifiable young celebrities and sports stars.

E.). Make an advance order for the Sputnik v vaccine pending its EMA approval. 

F.). Formally ask the United States and Britain for a temporary loan of x million vaccines to be replenished in mid-June to increase the pace of our vaccine roll out

G.). Open all retail for May 1st , outdoor dining and hospitality Move to level 3 from June 1st and level 2 from July 1st. 

H.)  Introduce 26 Testing Centres where self-referral is acceptable.

I.)   Introduce Antigen testing in all schools and places of work over 150 people.

J)   Establish green Zones , If Leitrim has no cases then Leitrim opens

"We cannot continue as we are. A 4th wave is mathematical certainty and the mood of the nation is absolutely at breaking point. We must try a real strategy and cannot continue with total risk aversion, " Deputy MacSharry concluded.