Level 3 restrictions in December will leave 'work to do' in January, professor says

Level 3 Restrictions In December Will Leave 'Work To Do' In January, Professor Says Level 3 Restrictions In December Will Leave 'Work To Do' In January, Professor Says
Level 3 will keep the country in a holding pattern with regard to Covid-19, the infectious diseases expert said. Photo: Getty Images.
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By Vivienne Clarke

A nationwide move to Level 3 restrictions when Level 5 is lifted will keep the country in a holding pattern with regard to Covid-19, infectious diseases expert Professor Sam McConkey has said.

Going to Level 3 will not fix the problem but it will stop the virus from getting out of control, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

The country may also need to consider other approaches in an effort to reduce Covid cases, such as mass testing and controlling outbreaks in businesses, hostels and other crowded settings where there are vulnerable people.

“These basic problems haven’t been solved,” Prof McConkey said.

Prof McConkey said that even if numbers were reduced to the same levels as in June, there would still be “a bit of work to do in January” to get numbers down.


Moving to Level 3 on December 1st would allow the gradual reopening of the retail sector, he said.

Toy stores

Toy stores could open and operate like supermarkets did during the first lockdown earlier this year with supervised queueing, no entry without masks etc., he explained.

Prof McConkey said that given current Covid figures it was unlikely that the retail sector would open before December 1st as had been suggested by some retails groups.

Speaking later on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Prof McConkey said that he remained optimistic about how effective the Level 5 restrictions could be.

He pointed out that the most recent data from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was from two weeks previously which included the Halloween period when people were attending parties.

Level 3 is a temporary way of keeping things level

The challenge will be to keep numbers down rather than “oscillating” up and down, he said. Moving to Level 2 had not kept numbers down in the past: “Level 3 is a temporary way of keeping things level.”

The virus would be easier to control if numbers were lower which would allow cases to be traced “meticulously” and prevent onward transmission, he added. Pop up testing centres in areas where there is an outbreak plus access to GP care for zero hours contract workers would also help.

Allowing people who live in crowded conditions access to a safe place where they could isolate for 14 days would also prevent further spread of the virus and was a safe option, said Prof McConkey.

“We need an integrated hard control plan,” he added. A world-class public health service which was well staffed and well resourced would control outbreaks.

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The three sectors facing the most challenges by Covid were aviation, retail and hospitality, he said. The aviation sector was going to be in difficulty “no matter what happens.”

It would be possible for the retail sector to reopen in a safe way, while hospitality was the “real challenge”.

A return to Level 3 restrictions with only outdoor dining would be safer. Indoor dining and pubs would be “more risky”, he warned.

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