Govt can either continue Covid-19 restrictions or implement 'short, sharp' response, says expert

Govt can either continue Covid-19 restrictions or implement 'short, sharp' response, says expert

Infectious disease specialist Professor Sam McConkey has said that the Government is now at a crossroads and is faced with two decisions on treating Covid-19.

The first option is to continue efforts to flatten the curve over a period of six to nine months, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

The second choice is “more severe” and would entail a “short, sharp response” to try to prevent the spread of the virus entirely. Such a move would require 32-county involvement, he said.

This was what South Korea and New Zealand were doing and because Ireland is an island it was an approach that could work here, he explained.

For the more aggressive option to work there would need to be more frequent and quicker testing with results within hours and contact tracing in a speedier fashion too.

“It would be challenging. It would mean restricting travel and quarantining people coming into the country.”

This would have to be a political choice and the Government would have to weigh up the economic and social costs.

Professor McConkey said: “I feel it has to be a national decision.

We would have to get Northern Ireland to go with us on this journey. It would have to be an all island approach. It needs national discussion and involve all the parties in Northern Ireland.

There are cost benefits with each option, but the "short, sharp" option might require using GPS apps, the willingness of people for their spatial data to be monitored and might require changes in the law, he warned.

Dr Catherine Motherway, president of the Intensive Care Society of Ireland, told the same programme that the Government is doing its best and that the measures taken to date have “really helped.”

    The latest restrictions in operation since Friday, March 27 mandate that everyone should stay at home, only leaving to:
  • Shop for essential food and household goods;
  • Attend medical appointments, collect medicine or other health products;
  • Care for children, older people or other vulnerable people - this excludes social family visits;
  • Exercise outdoors - within 2kms of your home and only with members of your own household, keeping 2 metres distance between you and other people
  • Travel to work if you provide an essential service - be sure to practice social distancing

She said she hoped the public would continue to observe the social distancing guidelines. “It has made a difference. We haven’t seen scenes like they had in Italy, in Madrid and in London.

“We should be proud of ourselves and continue staying at home. We are controlling it. This is one disaster that the population knows how to avoid.”

Dr Motherway said that ICUs are coping with the Covid-19 crisis because plans were made in advance and hospitals were reorganised.

“We will continue to control it if the public helps us by stopping the surge.”

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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