Professor Paddy Mallon, an expert in infectious diseases, has warned against complacency about Covid-19 and has called on the public to comply with restrictions for the next two weeks.
He was responding to a similar warning by the Minister for Health Simon Harris who said on Sunday that complacency could be disastrous and potentially fatal.
In a video message on Twitter, the minister said the progress made by the Irish people could be undone.
Prof. Mallon told Newstalk Breakfast that “huge strides forward” had been made to get Ireland to the “ideal position” to fight the pandemic. But the key is going to be what happens in the next two weeks, he said.
“Any slippage would mean we lose ground. We need to hold position.”
The consultant in infectious diseases said that in the next two weeks the situation in nursing homes along with further and faster testing are “really vital.”
“If we lose any ground in the next two weeks it will set us back and this situation will last even longer,” he warned.
Testing with 24 hour results will help provide real time data “to tell us where we are,” he said. The rate of transmission needs to be below one and the best way to track that is through large scale testing with a quick turn around.
Prof. Mallon said there is enough capacity and trained staff to carry out large scale testing. “A lot of the pieces are in place, we need to put the processes in place to deliver what we need.
“It is eminently doable. We have the machinery in place to test ourselves out of this.”
There had been a lot of assumptions about waves and herd immunity, he added. “I’m not a fan of assumptions. We need to focus on the struggle to suppress.
“We can’t lose a single inch of ground.”
'We’re at a very delicate moment' in fight against coronavirus - Harris
The Covid-19 death toll in Ireland is now 610 after
493 more people have tested positive, including older 48 swabs in the last of the backlog sent to Germany.
It means over fifteen thousand people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus in the Republic.
Health Minister Simon Harris says the evidence suggests the disease's growth is stalling in here.
But he says fight could still be lost.
“The progress is fragile. We’re at a very delicate moment,” Mr Harris said.
“And it would not take much for that to be reversed.
“I’m just hearing stories - and that’s all they are - but stories of people beginning to somewhat relax their interpretation of the phrase stay at home.
“And I really, really need to appeal to you not to do that.
“I can’t have a situation where all the amazing work you’ve done is ongoing.”
Meanwhile, a census of all nursing home deaths took place over the weekend to help better understand the scale of Covid-19 within the facilities.
The research looking at people who have died in nursing homes since the start of the year related to coronavirus, and those not linked to the disease.
The HSE's Dr Colm Henry says it may highlight some cases that are going "under the radar”.
- 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 physical distancing