Mike Ryan: People gathering for Christmas need to act as 'risk calculators'

The WHO director was awarded a human rights award for his work in leading the fight against Covid-19.
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By Digital Desk Staff

Those gathering to celebrate Christmas need to act as their own “risk calculators”, Irish doctor and executive director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Mike Ryan has said.

The WHO director was speaking ahead of being awarded the Bar of Ireland Human Rights Award for his work in leading the fight against Covid-19, according to the Irish Times.

The doctor, who has roots in Sligo and Mayo, said he was humbled by the recognition.

Speaking about Christmas gatherings, Dr Ryan said everyone should be their own “risk calculator” and manage their possible exposure to the virus, especially those who are older or who have underlying conditions.

“These are the small choices we make. It really is about proximity, and duration, and location," he said.

Younger people

Time spent going for a walk after the Christmas dinner — rather than sitting around in a room with the windows closed watching TV — could be one small choice made to curb the spread of Covid-19, he said.


The doctor said younger people had to remember their responsibility to others, adding students returning home for Christmas who had been mixing with lots of people should consider how they could minimise the risk to others.

Should I be in the small kitchen helping mum prepare the Christmas dinner?

You “really, really need to think about where I sleep, where I go to the bathroom, should I be in the small kitchen helping mum prepare the Christmas dinner?” he said.

“People are smart,” he said. “We are designed to manage risk as human beings.”

The WHO director said the Government and people of Ireland must balance the desire to celebrate Christmas with the need to contain the virus.

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“These are a series of trade-offs and genuine dilemmas, for which there are no correct scientific answers,” he said.

Dr Ryan said there needed to be very clear advice from Government on reducing risk, and a very calibrated set of measures that society agrees on.

He warned there was a pattern of the infection rate beginning to rise again when restrictions were lifted.

Dr Ryan said that to his knowledge, Ireland had been the first European country to “bend the curve” of the new wave of infections, and the people, the Government, and the scientists, needed to be given credit for this.

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