Current reopening discussions are political, prof says

ireland
Current Reopening Discussions Are Political, Prof Says Current Reopening Discussions Are Political, Prof Says
Public health expert Professor Anthony Staines said a choice had been made to allow a serious respiratory virus to become endemic in the population. Photo: Paul Faith/Getty Images.
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Vivienne Clarke

Current reopening discussions are political, public health expert Professor Anthony Staines has said, warning that Covid-19 cases could get out of hand if the easing of restrictions goes ahead too quickly.

A choice had been made to allow a serious respiratory virus to become endemic in the population, to effectively become “a normal part of everyday life”, Prof Staines told Newstalk’s Breakfast Briefing.

He said he was not certain that people understood the consequences of that plan.

“I would be more cautious than the Government because I think this could get out of control faster than they expect and cause more problems,” he said.

While the professor said the vaccination campaign had “changed the outlook completely”, Covid-19 was still a serious disease that could cause significant disruption.

Children

“I think what’s going to happen now is a significant rise in cases in children. We’ve seen a number of countries where this has happened,” he said.

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“In older people, there are still many cases - the majority of these cases do not end up in hospital. But if there are enough cases, enough people fall ill and enough people die to cause really quite serious health problems.

“When we get to 90 per cent of the whole population [vaccinated], we can maybe have other conversations.”

The current discussions about reopening were political rather than technical, he said.

'Modest investment'

Prof Staines called for other measures such as air filtration systems in classrooms. “These are devices around the size of a kitchen chair, costing a couple of hundred euros.”

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However, the Government seemed to be unwilling to make the modest investment involved, he said.

The risk of serious illness among children was rare but not zero, he added.

It comes as the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 will meet today to finalise details on a roadmap to end restrictions due to be published on Tuesday.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has said at least 90 per cent of over-16s should be fully vaccinated before any further easing of restrictions. It is believed it will be October before that target can be reached.

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