NPHET “completely unaware” of damage caused by lockdowns, says ISME

galway daily news nphet level 5 lockdown

Irish SME Association (ISME) has said that NPHET is “completely unaware of the ruin resulting from successive lockdowns” as the organisation expressed its concerns to all eight Galway TDs today.

ISME believes there are more effective, evidence-based, successful ways to respond to the virus other than a national ‘lockdown’.

The organisation has called on TDs to use their position in the Dáil to ensure that that Government responds in a more effective, strategic and sympathetic manner to the pandemic.

Because it was important to afford the public health effort time to respond to the pandemic, ISME has been very reluctant to engage in criticism,” said Neil McDonnell, CEO of ISME.

“However, it is no longer a sustainable position for us to remain silent and we can no longer tolerate a situation where the State’s only response to Covid-19 is to repeatedly furlough tens of thousands of workers.”

Neil McDonnell added that Ireland is ‘running with lockdown as the only shot in its gun’.

“This approach is a recipe for failure, and it will cause untold misery, ill-health, and recession throughout society.

“NPHET is composed of some 30+ public servants; highly qualified, well-meaning, devoted and intelligent, but completely unaware of the ruin resulting from successive lockdowns.”

In the letter, ISME set out a number of concerns associated with Level 5 lockdown, including:

  • Retail and Grooming Businesses and Staff – ISME is particularly concerned to see ‘non-essential’ retail and personal grooming forced to close once more, although the HSE’s epidemiological data demonstrated that these sectors were responsible for only 0.3% of the cases of Covid-19 transmission. Behaviours across other elements of society have caused a resurgence of Covid-19 in Ireland; not the retail and grooming sectors, which have been arbitrarily penalised.
  • Public Health Response – The lockdown is a natural public health response to rapidly increasing infection rates, but it is not the appropriate solution to the pandemic. In those countries that have successfully tackled Covid-19, lockdown is used to create breathing space for public health services, while control measures are put in place. This successful model has not been replicated in Ireland. The period following our spring lockdown has been wasted and a robust testing, tracing, isolation and control (TTIC) system has not been implemented.
  • Testing Regime – NPHET appears exclusively wedded to PCR testing as the methodology of testing. While PCR is regarded as the gold-standard of Covid-19 testing, it is expensive and slow. Other countries have introduced significantly less costly testing methods with much faster results such as antigen testing, albeit with lower levels (still in excess of 90%) of accuracy.  Despite our National Virus Reference Laboratory at UCD strongly advocating for the retention of PCR testing as our main testing methodology, they announced the inability of staff to test over two consecutive recent weekends. This is simply unacceptable in the midst of a national crisis, when people are having their livelihoods swept from under them.

“This lockdown is the last chance for NPHET and the HSE to put in place a robust plan for living with Covid-19,” said Mr McDonnell.

“If this is not done by the end of this lockdown in December, the Government must take action, reduce and reconstitute NPHET, and ensure it has access to expert, peer-reviewed, external advisors.”

ISME is also encouraging TDs to advocate for alternative solutions in line with International best practice including Australia, New Zealand and those Pacific Rim countries that have managed to control the spread of Covid-19 with robust border quarantine measures; strong public health infrastructure; good testing infrastructure; and crucially, a solid legal framework for quarantine and isolation.