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Derry Colum MP Eastwood says Boris Johnson’s obsession with avoiding risks of Brexit extension COVID-19 contact tracing data cliff edge


Eastwood said the UK is in serious danger of abruptly leaving the EU’s data-sharing regime if a new legal framework is not developed by December.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s questions to Westminister, Eastwood said: “In Ireland, both jurisdictions are working hard to organize contact tracing on a north-south basis, but the prime ministers’ obsession with avoiding a prolonging the Brexit transition means that we risk collapsing without a data sharing framework, which will seriously compromise our ability to protect people from COVID-19.

“When will he put the lives of people in our community above the petty and narrow Brexiteer policy?”

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Colum Eastwood Copyright: jpimedia

Mr. Johnson replied, “I must respectfully disagree with the member. We work closely not only with our colleagues in the government of Northern Ireland, but also with our colleagues in Dublin.

“I had a very good conversation with Leo Varadkar the other day and we agreed on the way forward. There is a lot of sharing between the UK and Ireland, and it will continue to be . “

The issue was recently raised in the Stormont Assembly by South Belfast SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole, former counselor at 10 Downing Street for HM Treasury.

Mr OToole pointed out that the UK is still sharing information with the European Union today.

It’s really important. At present, the United Kingdom is still in the context of information governance in the context of the EU. At the end of the year, we do not know what information governance framework we will be in. We will likely continue to search for contacts and people will continue to move from Dundalk to Newry and from Buncrana to Derry, he said.

OToole asked Minister of Health Robin Swann if there were any emergency plans in place to deal with a possible end to the current arrangements.

Is there a risk that, if we leave the transition period without an agreement and there is legal uncertainty around our information governance framework, this would jeopardize the search for contacts, in particular in border areas? He asked.

Mr. Swann said: We believe there may be a legal basis on which we can share this information, but what detail and what level of information we share remains to be determined. It’s a thing of the first days, and it’s new on this island, in the UK and in Europe when we look at how we start to do this level of contact tracing.

Eastwood said: “The island of Ireland is a single epidemiological unit when it comes to tackling the COVID-19 crisis. There is no room for constitutional politics or the fluttering flag , this is to save lives, which is why the contact tracing program is essential for border workers, border communities and our population in general.

We need to be able to track the spread of the virus, identify vulnerable communities and isolate them to save lives. This will require a huge effort between the executive of Northern Ireland and the Irish government to establish a joint research agenda, ensure compatibility of our applications and, most importantly, share information quickly. Anything that impedes the free flow of data will seriously compromise the contact tracing process and endanger lives.

It is therefore a very serious issue when UK governments refuse to extend the transition period to ensure that we have an appropriate information governance framework which guarantees the reliable provision of sensitive data. We have been saying for years that the scale of the work to be undertaken would require a longer transition period. The COVID-19 crisis now means that it is a matter of life and death. No one should be willing to place a narrow constitutional policy or a fluttering flag before the welfare of the inhabitants of this island.

Boris Johnson’s response to my question was deficient. A solution to this problem must be found, even if it takes time.

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