Closing borders would make things worse, says disease prevention and control expert

Border closures will not be effective in delaying the spread of Covid-19 according to an expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Closing borders would make things worse, says disease prevention and control expert

Border closures will not be effective in delaying the spread of Covid-19 according to an expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Dr Agoritsa Baka said that given there is already community transmission of the virus in European countries, “we need to collaborate to make sure everyone can deal with the virus in a coordinated way.”

Closing borders would make things worse, she said and would negatively affect the function of healthcare systems, as was seen during the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

Dr Baka said that if, for example, Germany closed its border “everything, like food supplies, personal protection equipment cannot move around Europe, and it would be a disaster.”

The spread of Covid-19 across Europe is “not out of control”.

Measures taken to date should mean a “much lower peak of the outbreak, rather than the situation unfolding in Italy.”

Dr Baka described the approach of the UK as “very risky” and said that the ECDC cannot oblige countries to do something, “we can just advise them on the best way forward.”

One of the strongest recommendations from the ECDC, she said was the protection of hospital and health care workers.

“They need to be there operating at full capacity caring for patients.”

Public health specialist Dr Gabriel Scally, Honorary Professor of Public Health in Bristol University, has described the UK's policy on Covid-19 as “way out of line” with the rest of Europe and advice from the World Health Organisation.

Dr Gabriel Scally
Dr Gabriel Scally

“I think it's dangerous. Their view really is let this fire burn and they will try and damp it down where they can and spread it out over a period of time.

"But we know from elsewhere in the world that if countries and communities act fast, this can be kept under control and knocked back.”

The UK approach is similar to the old adage: “Everyone is out of step with our Johnny", he said.

“If the UK has got it right, then the rest of the world has got it wrong. And I don't think that's likely.

“I think it's displayed by some of their appalling science that they're talking about, using herd immunity.

They are reliant on mathematical modelling but this is not a mathematical modelling issue.

Dr Scally said that if there was one threat to how things are being handled in the Republic of Ireland, it is the UK's position.

People in Northern Ireland need to be demanding better from their leaders and they themselves need to do a better job.

“They're following along blindly this notion that somehow all of the wisdom is emanating from Number 10 Downing Street and we know that to be wrong.

"Even the United States is taking a more proactive approach than the UK.”

The UK should be shutting schools and not relying on sporting bodies to make decisions on mass gatherings, he said.

Dr Scally also called on publicans in the North to take a responsible attitude.

People should not be flying back and forth to the UK unless it is absolutely essential, he added.

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