The Regional Group of independent TDs has called on the government to “take action” on reopening the economy.

The group – which consists of Cathal Berry (Kildare South); Seán Canney (Galway East); Peter Fitzpatrick (Louth); Noel Grealish (Galway West); Michael Lowry (Tipperary); Verona Murphy (Wexford); Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway); and Matt Shanahan (Waterford) – urged the government to act “more proactively” in opening some sectors, citing construction in particular.

“The construction sector is one that Regional Group members believe can be opened immediately using antigen testing every two days along with the implementation of operating standards previously agreed by the construction Industry to ensure safe operations,” the TDs said in a joint statement.

Ireland is the only country in Europe where construction is not fully open despite that previous construction activity has been proven to be very safe, with very low rates of Covid incidence or transmission.

“In the UK, government is subsidising antigen testing regimes on building sites to keep construction operational,” the group pointed out.

The group also called on the government to “revisit” the support base of healthcare professionals that was on offer from among those who responded to the ‘Ireland on Call’ initiative.

The group suggested that suitable candidates from that initiative should be recruited to help with test and trace and vaccination activity, which would “allow other HSE [Health Service Executive] staff to get back to frontline medical management”.

We understand difficulties that the new Covid-19 variant presents but we believe we must be proactive in terms of managing risk while we await increased supplies of vaccine.

“Our national community and economy has suffered hugely and it is time now for renewed and urgent action utilising the latest understandings in science and technology that can allow us to live with Covid-19 while we work to defeat it,” the statement concluded.