A Sinn Féin TD for Co Donegal has said the establishment of a dedicated hotline to report Covid breaches to gardaí in the county is "a bit of an exaggeration" in terms of the challenge of managing the virus in the county.
Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Pádraig MacLochlainn said that in recent weeks a couple of electoral areas had "a little bit of a setback and a challenge in those areas but it doesn't justify 'the dogs in the streets comments' or it doesn't justify dedicated hotlines for Donegal".
He said "it's disheartening and demoralising for the vast majority of people in the county, who've made huge personal sacrifices over the last year.....to hear their county, as they see it, being knocked and scapegoated".
He said there is a challenge in a few electoral areas, and there is a need to improve communications with "that small minority of people who've let their guard down".
He said the efforts of people in Donegal had reduced the number of cases from a high point of 1,600 per 100,000 down to 150.
Deputy MacLochlainn's comments came after gardaí in Co Donegal set up a special Covid hotline to allow the public to report illegal parties or gatherings in the county.
Anybody who hears of illegal parties or gatherings is encouraged to phone 074-9167101 to speak to a garda based in Letterkenny Garda Station.
Speaking to Highland Radio, Garda Gráinne Doherty specifically referred to birthday parties, beach parties, gatherings after funerals and also gatherings of secondary school students as being areas of concern for gardaí.
On Friday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan raised concerns about the county, as figures from the National Public Health Emergency Team showed that Donegal had the highest incidence rate in the country.
Dr Holohan said there are "clear examples of non-compliance across many parts of society, I might as well be honest about that.
"It is a concerning level of compliance compared to the rest of the country," he added.
There are 'clear examples of non-compliance across many parts of society' in Donegal, says Dr Tony Holohan. The community positivity rate in Donegal is about 12%, while it is about 7% across the country. | Read more: https://t.co/ojWhHCCE87 pic.twitter.com/maMnn4Pq4Q— RTÉ News (@rtenews) April 30, 2021
Donegal Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh has said people in Donegal were "upset and annoyed" that Dr Holohan singled out non-compliance with public health regulations in the county.
Mr McHugh said that the message from Dr Holohan "landed badly as the vast, vast majority of people are doing so much [to prevent the spread of infections] in the county".
However, he said he was grateful the CMO and Deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn, along with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, had taken time to discuss the high case numbers in Donegal at the weekend.
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said "everyone wants to continue to put their shoulder to the wheel" as people in Donegal do not want to be isolated or become an outlier as restrictions ease in the country.
People did not want to be "scapegoated" but are honest enough to know there are isolated examples of where people are breaking the rules.
He said sport clubs and gardaí locally were issuing statements and intervening to ensure people follow the rules.
He welcomed the announcement of an additional Covid-19 testing centre in Milford and said it is very hard and complex to understand how the infection levels in Donegal are different to elsewhere in the country.
Meanwhile, speaking on RTÉ's News at One, a Donegal-based GP has said the surge in Covid-19 infections is not county-wide, with higher levels of infection detected in the north of the county.
Dr Paul Armstrong, a GP based in Lifford in east Donegal, said that while the border is still a factor in elevated case numbers, the easy transmissibility of the variants of the virus, along with people socialising is also to blame.
Dr Armstrong said that some infections are linked to gatherings taking place, with young people meeting in houses and gardens.
He said that the newer variants make even minimal contact risky as the variants are very transmissible.
"It's been a long year for everyone and people are finding it difficult and frustrating," he said..