Speaking to reporters at Stormont yesterday, Mr Eastwood said Northern Ireland should not be following the lead set by the Prime Minister when it came to the pace of relaxing coronavirus restrictions.
“Because of decisions made by Boris Johnson I think over 130,000 people have died,” he said.
“So Boris Johnson’s not a man to be listened to when it comes to dealing with this pandemic. I want us to get out of restrictions as quickly as possible. The best way to do that, in my view, is to go a bit slower but to keep things like facemasks and up the vaccinations – we need to go very, very hard at getting vaccines in people’s arms.
“I would encourage all people, particularly young people, to take the opportunity to get vaccinated, to bring us to a point of normality.
“It is clear that the vaccines are working, they are beginning to reduce the connection between illness and hospitalisations, but that has to continue and that will only continue if we get more people vaccinated.
“But I don’t think anybody should be following Boris Johnson’s lead on this.”
But DUP Health Spokesperson Pam Cameron hit back at the SDLP leader’s comments.
“Everyone wants to see restrictions lifted as soon as possible, but Colum Eastwood’s crass attacks on the Prime Minister are more about petty politicking than either health or the economy,” she said. “Governments across the world were faced with huge decisions, taken at great speed and which impacted upon both lives and livelihoods.
“Rather than engaging in such cheap politics, Colum should be focusing on the united drive to ensure that all adults take up the opportunity to be vaccinated. That take-up not only aids the recovery of our economy but also the resumption of other vital non-covid health services which have also been hugely impacted by the pandemic.”
She said the SDLP leader “seems reluctant” to remind people that vulnerable people in Northern Ireland were amongst the first in the world to be vaccinated because of the UK’s vaccine programme.
“Perhaps he’s still in the process of analysing the full impact of that early roll-out.
“Cheap attacks on Boris Johnson do nothing to help anyone facing real problems. That includes young people who cannot get a driving test and businesses which continue to face massive financial strain.”
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