Mary Lou McDonald has said it is “very worrying” that lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland are to be lifted next Friday after an overnight vote in Stormont.
The Sinn Féin leader said Northern Ireland was “just not on top of things” during a discussion about rising Covid-19 case-figures there on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne.
“The idea to be lifting restrictions when we are just not on top of things is worrying and wrong,” she said.
“The CMO (Chief Medical Officer) was very blunt in the advice he gave to the Executive in that any easing of the restrictions would result in excess deaths.”
The Northern Ireland Executive had been split on the question of whether businesses should open again following last night’s completion of a four-week lockdown, with the DUP finally securing enough support for their proposal to open cafés, hairdressers and non-licensed restaurants from next Friday, followed by drink-only bars and other licensed premises a week later.
“The idea that the DUP can turn public health and our need to keep all of us safe in very difficult circumstances, to turn that into an orange vs green, them vs us issue is really very very shocking. But that’s what happened,” McDonald claimed, referring to the division between the two parties.
“The way you stop the political row is that you follow the science and you will note that there were two cross-community votes called by the DUP, scandalous stuff,” she insisted.
“People need to listen very carefully to scientific advice. We wished to follow the medical advice of the chief medical officer.
“More worrying is the hospitals in the North are at 100pc capacity.”
Dr Michael McBride, the Chief Medical Officer in Northern Ireland, had advised that the lockdown be extended for a further two weeks, with figures suggesting the Covid-19 incidence rate there could be three times higher than the Republic of Ireland.
McDonald also appeared to support the Táiniste’s call for people not to book flights home to Ireland for Christmas yet, saying it was “too early” to make definite plans.
“It’s a tradition for all of us that our people come home but this year is different and it’s not just about the level of transmission here in Ireland it’s also about the level of transmission elsewhere where our loved ones are living.
“I think certainly it’s too early for people to make definite plans but it’s most unlikely people will not be able to travel home,” McDonald said.