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John McGahon / ‘All-island effort required to bring Covid under control’

John McGahon
John McGahon pictured at the Carnbeg Hotel in Dundalk in February, 2020. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

A joint, cross-border approach to tackle Covid-19 is needed to help prevent the coronavirus pandemic becoming out of control on the island of Ireland, Fine Gael Senator John McGahon has said.

Dundalk-based McGahon has called for much closer cross-border cooperation between government and health authorities in the fight against Covid-19 as Northern Ireland recorded 934 new cases yesterday, the highest number to date, followed by 726 new cases on Saturday (October 3).

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In the Republic, the Department of Health announced that there were now 613 new cases on Saturday, with 12 of those in Louth. There were also 12 cases in Monaghan and eight in Cavan while Donegal, already under Level 3 restrictions, had 58 new cases.

“Covid does not recognise borders and it’s extremely important that all lines of communication are open between North and South. From Dundalk to Donegal, the border is seamless with the social fabric of its communities intertwined,” Senator McGahon said.

“We really need to increase these lines of communications so all potential Covid cases are identified and proper procedures followed. It is vital that we do this as quickly as possible as we face into Winter.

“Covid does not respect borders or boundaries and as a result we really need to make sure we have covered every single aspect of cross border co-operation, whether that’s with contact tracing, increased communication between NPHET and the NHS, or ensuring that the restrictions on both sides of the border are clearly communicated.

The Senator and former councillor says there must be a level playing field on both sides of the border and has called on a stepping up of all cross-border cooperation in regards to the Covid-19 response.

“People go to restaurants across the border, they go shopping, they socialise. They go to sporting events or their workplaces across border. This will require an all-Island effort to bring the virus under control.

“The infection rate in Northern Ireland is five times higher than in the Republic. It’s not just the Derry/Strabane area where high infections are occurring, but right across the border area.

There have been 244 positive cases of Covid-19 detected in Louth since September 1. That represents 23% of the total number of 1,074 cases in the county since the first case was detected in March. In comparison, there were just over 100 cases in the four months between the start of May and the end of August.

The most recent 14-day incidence rate for Local Electoral Areas show that the Dundalk-Carlingford area has a 132.8 positive cases rate per 100,000 population. That compares to just 27.6 in Ardee and 50.6 in Drogheda.

The national rate for the period of September 15 to September 28 was 88.2 That national figure has now risen to 100.9.

“The only way we can attempt to bring Covid under control in border areas is to really increase the cooperation between the two administrations on this island and take a full all island approach to tackling Covid, particularly in the border region,” he added.

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