A leading immunology expert criticized the government’s “last minute” approach to establishing Covid vaccine certificates, calling the deployment a “disaster.”
Liam Fanning, professor of immunovirology at University College Cork, called for the use of antigen testing in public places to identify infectious individuals.
He believes rapid tests should be widely available and should be used for people to gain access to hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants and at live events.
He also called for a public inquiry into the NPHET and the government “while the players are still on the pitch,” and accused ministers of “proxying” pubs and restaurants over plans to reopen.
While indoor meals and drinks are expected to resume on Monday for those vaccinated against Covid-19 and who have recovered from the virus, Professor Fanning said it was “absolutely” a mistake not to use the tests antigen.
He told the Irish Mirror: “It’s more from lastminute.com, we saw it with the vaccine certificates.”
One example is that a family member had to wait more than seven hours on the phone to try to reach the vaccination certificate call center, while other vaccinated parents are still waiting to receive their documents.
“It was a disaster, that’s the only way to put it,” he said.
“That rings hollow at this point the excuse that they [the government] had not foreseen the number of people who need help, I think that belies a situation where there is an obscuration of the responsibility of the government in preparation.
“I think it’s a travesty that the government has been so ill-prepared when there have been plenty of opportunities over the past few months for the government to introduce basic QR code reports on testing. antigen.”
Professor Fanning added that over the next few months, as more and more people are vaccinated, it will be far from a simple matter of reopening society and getting back to normalcy, as the impact of the pandemic on various sectors of society will be exposed.
“The other thing that we will have is that we will start to see the realization and devastation of the deferred health care that has been seen at various points in the pandemic,” he explained.
“We will be coming home to roost and the pity is that there will be people who die early because of delayed health care.”
The UCC professor said while health officials and politicians are still in office, there needs to be a review of their response to the pandemic.
Professor Fanning added, “I think what we need to do is encourage exploration of the performance of the government, NPHET and NIAC while these players are still on the pitch.
“I think not using antigen testing is fundamentally embarrassing the country, we are basically playing one handed hurling.
“With the business imperative taking precedence over public health in December, it looks like we are doing it now and that is why we have to overcome horrendous legislative hurdles and social discussions about dividing society at this point with the vaccinated and unvaccinated to comply with what appears to be the business imperative.
“I think we need to get into a proper discussion and public inquiry on the government department, I know Micheal Martin is against it and I have a feeling he doesn’t want this investigation until the pandemic is over. finished, in other words when he’s not on the ground.
“I think it would be a terrible insult to the individuals in this country who have suffered, who have lost loved ones, an opportunity lost because of the lockdown.
“I think it’s up to the government and Micheal Martin to have the social ownership to come and say to the public, ‘We are now starting an investigation into our performance while we are in this pandemic.’
He added that this investigation should have started in December and that it would not have inhibited the decision-making process regarding public health measures.
The immunology expert added that “last year’s language was all wrong” during the Christmas season regarding the easing of Covid restrictions.
“I didn’t think opening up from a business imperative was right,” he said.
“I think we would have survived level five [restrictions] and I think the business imperative has taken priority over the public health message, just like what’s going on with the meals inside right now. “