The Government is "sleepwalking" the country "into a lockdown at Christmas", Solidarity/People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy has claimed in the Dáil.

He was speaking in the Dáil after the Cabinet met to discuss a series of restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19

He contended the country is in a crisis and hospitals are in danger "of being overrun" because of the Government's decisions over the course of the pandemic.

The Dublin South West TD said our ICU capacity was half the OECD average and, at the current rate, would take another 13 years to achieve the average.

Mr Murphy also argued that the abandonment of tracing and testing in schools had been disastrous - especially when the Government "refuse to bring in anything other than guidance for ventilation."

He said what the Government needed to do was to expand PCR testing, address the crucial issue of ventilation in every workplace and school, restore contact tracing and roll-out the booster programme.

In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the public health advice was that "our schools are safe places" and he said that 35,000 carbon dioxide monitors had been distributed.

He said the situation "is serious", but Mr Murphy had not recognised that Ireland was conducting 200,000 PCR tests week, which was one of the best records in Europe.

On antigen testing, he said that the Government was expanding their use but public health advice was "still cautious" on the issue and "strong communications are required."


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Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy accused Government of not doing enough to prevent the current surge of Covid-19.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions, Ms Murphy said the Government had consistently downplayed the State's responsibility to manage the response to the virus.

However, the Taoiseach rejected the criticism, telling TDs that Ireland's vaccination programme had been one of the best in the world. He said that 90% of those aged over 12 have now been vaccinated.

Ms Murphy said that whilst the initial vaccination roll-out may have been a success, the current booster roll-out is too slow.

She also accused Government of being too slow to implement antigen testing and for failing to make ventilation a priority.

The Kildare North TD also asked what Government would do for people who might find themselves out of work over the coming weeks.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment was further reduced today and it has been closed to new entrants since July.

Govt lacks urgency to reform health service - SF

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Government of lacking urgency and planning to reform the health service.

She told the Dáil the Winter Plan does not go far enough and it does nothing to improve the health service.

"Even if we hadn't hit a pandemic, this plan falls far short of what's needed," she said.

The Sinn Féin leader said staff are being left in a "stress cauldron" conditions.

Responding, the Taoiseach said extra funding has already produced 800 hospital beds this year along with record recruitment to the health service.

He said that he was determined within health care to get far more capital projects completed far more quickly.

Additional reporting: Mícheál Lehane, Tommy Meskill