Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

19.03 25 Feb 2021


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Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae says he wants level five restrictions eased in Kerry soon due to low COVID-19 transmission levels in the county.

He says people in the country are worn down and 'absolutely fed up with their lot'.

Level five restrictions for the entire country were this week extended until at least the start of April.

Kerry, meanwhile, is the county with the lowest incidence rate in the country - with latest figures showing a 14-day incidence rate of 36 per 100,000 population, compared to the national rate of 226 per 100,000.

Speaking to The Hard Shoulder, Deputy Healy-Rae said he believes sectors such as construction can now start safely reopening in Kerry, as the 'virus isn't growing' in rural areas or small communities.

Danny Healy-Rae wants lockdown eased in Kerry amid low COVID-19 case numbers

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

He said: “People are worn and torn now from being locked down… they’re depressed, and absolutely fed up with their lot.

“The ordinary punters around rural, isolated places in Kerry… their mental state is not great at the present time.

“They can’t talk to their friends, and there’s no group of people they can actually meet. The only place they’ll see a crowd now is at a bottle bank."

The Kerry TD acknowledged people will 'have to suffer through' if it's not yet safe to reopen pubs, but he believes there is more scope for opening some sectors such as house building.

He also believes people will be cautious when restrictions are eased, arguing: “People are more educated now - they don’t want to get the virus.

"They’ve certainly seen what it has done, and the thousands of people who have died, and those who’ve gotten it and can’t back their former health again."

Deputy Healy-Rae added that he's fully behind Kerry chef Paul Treyvaud, who has said he will reopen his Killarney restaurant 'no matter what' on July 1st.

Easing restrictions

Also speaking on the show, Professor Gerry Killeen -  the Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences in UCC - said it's still too early to start reopening.

He argued that the country should be aiming for a COVID-19 elimination strategy, and suggested that many things about COVID-19 are very predictable.

He said: "It’s not the world first pathogen.

“There are [viruses] where I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it's eliminable… but this one is possible. It has been done in several counties, and they’re not all islands - Vietnam has a huge border."

To eliminate the virus, Professor Killeen believes we need measures such as full mandatory quarantine for people arriving from all countries, trailer exchanges at ports, and border bubbles for border counties - as well as clear targets for when restrictions can be eased.

He said: “You’ve got to zone the country… then you can start to ease small things like the 5km rule.

“Somewhere like Kerry would probably be at the front of the queue in terms of counties that would start to ease restrictions in late April, early May.

“But there’s no reason the whole country couldn’t get back to a normal life within the country by June."

However, he stressed that measures such as reopening pubs are still a 'long way off'.

Main image: File photo of Danny Healy-Rae. Photo: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

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