Joint policy on Covid-19 needed for Ireland and UK, according to professor

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Vivienne Clarke

Infectious disease specialist Professor Sam McConkey has called for a joint policy on Covid-19 for Ireland and the UK.

There needs to be a link with Northern Ireland through the Belfast Agreement and with the UK through the East/West component.

Prof McConkey also called for the escalation of controls and restrictions, but he warned that it had to be done in a way involving State supports for individuals and businesses.

“Because having people destitute and starving with no money is not where any of us want to be,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

There was an urgent need for increased restrictions, as what had been happening in Dublin and Donegal for the past few weeks and in the rest of the country over the past few days had not been adequate to keep the increase in coronavirus in Ireland under control, he said.

Prof McConkey said the leveling off of Covid figures in Dublin was like being in purgatory “it's like being in a bad place for a long time, you don't know how long you're going to be there, I personally feel levelling off is not a good thing.

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“Things like admissions and the number of outbreaks are going up. I think we're seeing some impact, a definite sort of inflection point compared to a few weeks ago, Dublin figures have stabilised, but to be stabilised, where we're at, at Level 3 for a long time like 6 months or a year or more is not a solution to this.

I don't feel that living like this for a long period of time is an adequate sort of public sector response to this.

When asked about the R rate in Dublin now being at 1, Prof McConkey said that if the R rate stayed at 1 then it might be necessary to stay at Level 3 for months or years.

“That's very unsatisfactory.”

Outbreaks

His view was that it would be better to have two months of tighter restrictions, to get control and bring the number of cases down.

“What's happening now because there's so many outbreaks, it's really challenging for the understaffed, under paid, under organised public health service to follow up on all the outbreaks.

“We're now getting 80 to 90 outbreaks each day and each of those outbreaks, not only to individuals needing phone calls, but the public health nurses and doctors getting involved with how to control each of those outbreaks and advising people who run those locations on how to stop that outbreak spreading.

"That's quite a lot of one on one personalised individual, quite appropriate investigative detective work and also intervention to stop each of those outbreaks growing.”

Prof McConkey said he agreed with Prof Philip Nolan’s warning about 1500 cases per day, he had done his own numbers six to eight weeks ago and they were higher.

He did say though "we've had Level 3 for a few weeks now, so that has levelled things off a bit, we do our numbers separately, I largely agree with his projections, that's simply saying if we continue what we're doing now for the next two to three weeks then that's we'll end up with.

“People think projections are like prophecy, that it's definitely going to happen, but what we're all hoping is that we change our course, that we change our direction, do things differently, both individual actions and public policy and Government restrictions.”

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