State needs to be ‘hunter rather than prey’ with Covid-19 testing

A medical expert has said that local lockdowns will need to be more targeted with a “multisectoral approach” that sees public health authorities link in businesses and the local community.

Professor Mary Horgan, the president of the Royal College of Physicians Ireland, told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland this approach will be the way forward with localised lockdowns rather than “broad brush strokes” on a country or county basis.

She added that testing needs to be rapid and agile to determine where clusters of the virus are: “Testing is absolutely fundamental to control the virus, end to end, from testing to contact tracing. Testing needs to be rapid, to be agile, for rapid containment.”

We need to be hunters rather than the prey, we need to stay one step ahead of the virus.

Prof Horgan said speed and accessibility in testing were key, and that the onus lay with the HSE to see how testing could be increased rapidly if there were delays: “This is all about testing and containment.”

She added: “We need to be hunters rather than the prey, we need to stay one step ahead of the virus.”

There is now an opportunity to look at every stage of the process and to look at each element of the “food chain” and increase the rapidity of testing, she said.

Lockdown Rollercoaster

The situation in the Midlands provides an opportunity to look at all the information gathered over the 14 days of the restriction, which will have “huge implications” for the people of the three counties, the professor said.

It comes as another leading health expert has said the Government's current strategy of suppressing Covid-19 is likely to lead to a "rollercoaster of lockdowns", following news of a new medium term plan that will see colour-coded statuses given to areas depending on infection levels.

UCC Professor Gerry Killeen says the measure will not be enough to eliminate the virus from Ireland: "At national level, our authorities are currently in a living with the virus sustained suppression strategy that, at best will go on for a very long time.

"At worst, and more likely, it turns into a rollercoaster of lockdowns and releases, and lockdowns and releases, and that makes life very difficult to plan."