With the Government announcing that the emergency Covid-19 powers will be extended until February 9th, opposition has been quick to meet the new announcement with Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane stating that they “were no longer necessary.”
The restrictions were due to end next week but a recent surge in cases has prompted health officials to procure a more cautious approach with TDs supporting a three-month extension by 82 votes to 44.
This extension will allow some restrictions to remain in places such as requiring vaccine passports and the wearing of face masks in certain situations.
This also gives gardaí powers to enforce powers for breaching Covid-19 rules.
Describing it as the “final extension” Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that an extension beyond February 9th would require new legislation.
Explaining that the surge in cases is what sparked the decision to extend emergency powers, Donnelly said that “we simply cannot know what will face us over the coming months”.
David Cullinane accepted that some public health measures “obviously have to remain in place so long as they are necessary” but said that granting significant powers to Minister Donnelly was not necessary anymore.
Expressing disappointment to the vote, Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae stated, “They have had the emergency powers for more than a year and a half now, and the cases are still going up and up.”
“The emergency powers were put in place as there was an exceptional need – I don’t believe the exceptional need is there now.”
IMAGE – “David Cullinane TD” (CC BY 2.0) by Sinn Féin