Dr Gabriel Scally: North and South must work together to fight coronavirus

“No health system in the world could cope with a full blown outbreak of the virus,” said Dr Scally.

Dr Gabriel Scally: North and South must work together to fight coronavirus

Public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally has warned that the coronavirus “will not recognise the border” and said that this is the time for integration of services north and south.

“There need to be substantial cross border cooperation, sharing of resources, harmonisation,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“No health system in the world could cope with a full blown outbreak of the virus,” said Dr Scally.

Testing is extremely important, he added. The way testing is carried out is also important so that judgment calls can be made about the closure of schools etc.

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The public health system in the Republic is “not that strong” he said, based on his experience of examining the cervical cancer service.

The level of awareness and guidelines to date seem to be “entirely appropriate", he said. “It is really, really important that background planning goes on and that changes are being made in the hospital service and preparations are being made in the hospital service and also preparations right across the country when the situation changes.”

As soon as there is evidence of significant spread of the virus in the community that is the time to look at a lock down. If it is done too early it could be difficult to keep in place for any extended time.

It is a matter of getting it right. It is a difficult call to make and it has to be made based on medical advice.

“Everyone can help by practicing social distancing, washing their hands and avoiding any unnecessary travel.”

Dr Scally said he was sure that the HSE has plans in place to maximise facilities.

Meanwhile, the head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), Prof. Sam McConkey has called for broad political and social support for measures to combat the coronavirus.

Prof McConkey said there needed to be social unity with coordinated actions for social distancing.

“We need to be looking forward for options, the problem can be fixed.”

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