Second wave of coronavirus 'inevitable', Dáil hears

Prof. Patrick Mallon, Consultant in Infectious Diseases, St. Vincent’s University Hospital. Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Second wave of coronavirus 'inevitable', Dáil hears
Prof. Patrick Mallon, Consultant in Infectious Diseases, St. Vincent’s University Hospital. Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Prof. Patrick Mallon, Consultant in Infectious Diseases, St. Vincent’s University Hospital. Photo: Robbie Reynolds

It is "inevitable" that Ireland will see a resurgence of Covid-19, the Dáil has been told.

Professor Paddy Mallon, an infectious diseases expert, told Dáil committee on the virus that as the country reopens and restrictions are relaxed, a second wave of the disease will happen.

Professor Mallon told the committee that looking at the uptick in cases in the likes of Germany, the USA and Portugal, he felt it was a matter of when, not if, there are more cases.

"Ireland is still within a geographical high-risk zone for Covid-19. I and others in the infectious diseases clinical community believe that it is inevitable that we will experience a resurgence of cases as we relax restrictions and permit more travel.

"Despite the optimism in some quarters in recent weeks, we are still in the midst of a national health emergency and our citizens are no less at risk of severe illness and death if they contract Covid-19 infection now than they were back in March.

Lessons learned from the first wave of Covid-19 need to be translated into actions and resources but we have a narrow window of opportunity.

Professor Mallon said that the likelihood is that future restrictions would depend on the geographical spread of the virus. He told Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly that the resurgence of the virus could happen rapidly like it had done in Victoria, Australia.

Professor Mallon told Mr Donnelly that testing at airports might not solve all of the issues of imported cases, but would "take positive cases out of the population". He said that the long incubation period of the virus meant that people would have to be tested daily. Professor Mallon told Mr Donnelly that temperature testing of healthcare workers would be useful only as part of a suite of measures.

Professor Mallon said that the lessons learned must translate to a rapid testing and tracing regime. The Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE Dr Colm Henry told the committee that the capacity for carrying out 100,000 tests a week was in place, but due to a low rate of community transmission, the country was only carrying out 18,000 weekly.

"We have retained the capability to ramp up considerably at short notice should we see in increase in the R-value or an increase in the number of positive tests or contacts."

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