Early social distancing measures have had big impact, says disease expert

Government measures to contain Covid-19 are having an impact with cases almost halved from a fortnight ago, says disease expert, Prof Philip Nolan.
Early social distancing measures have had big impact, says disease expert
Picture: RollingNews

Government measures to contain Covid-19 are having an impact with cases almost halved from a fortnight ago, says disease expert, Prof Philip Nolan.

Prof Nolan is a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and chairs a group that analyses how the disease might behave.

He leads a team of 50 academics who review the international literature and put together the best forecast for public health experts.

Prof Nolan said new figures suggested that we were flattening the curve as the daily growth in cases decreased from 33% during St Patrick's week to around 15% in the last five days.

It was a testament to how carefully people had observed the advice and restrictions that had been introduced.

Social distancing measures had had a very big impact but the impact of measures taken last Friday would not be known for another seven to 14 days.

People were still being diagnosed with Covid-19 and people were still dying from the disease, he said on RTÉ radio.

The measures being taken needed to have a greater impact if they were going to contain the disease.

So, what we are seeing now is the response to the early measures – closing schools, closing universities and asking people to restrict their movements and work from home.

“It won't be until well into next week before we can see the full impact of the measures taken on Friday and then we will know if we have done enough to suppress this disease.”

Prof Nolan said they did not know when the virus was likely to be at its peak.

The objective was to slow the spread of the virus so much so that the peak occurred very late and was very low.

We would be living with the virus for quite some time and would have to learn to adapt.

“This is a long, slow battle against a new disease. We will have to adapt our measures over time to how the disease behaves in our community.”

Public health expert, Prof Gabriel Scally, warned against squandering the geographical advantage of living on the island of Ireland by having different health policies on either side of the border.

Prof Scally, who led the inquiry in the CervicalCheck, urged people to put their histories aside and work out what was best for people on the island.

“We will squander that advantage if we don't take a unified approach to deal with this problem,” he warned.

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