'All bets are off' if community transmission of Covid-19 not contained, warns health expert

'All bets are off' if community transmission of Covid-19 not contained, warns health expert
Dr Colm Henry said follow up presentation for Covid-19 testing by the public needs to be improved. Picture: Simon Dawson/PA Wire

The HSE’s chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry has warned that everyone will have to find a way of living with the ‘new normal’ of life in the time of Covid-19.

Dr Henry said that he supports people getting back to work, as suggested by IBEC, but said that apart from individual responsibility, employers have a responsibility to ensure their employees are safe.

The ‘new normal’ had to include minimum contact, avoiding crowds and close contacts, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

When asked about school uniforms and if it was safer for children to wear their own clothing, Dr Henry said that was a decision for each school, but he felt that if good hand hygiene and social-distancing measures were implemented, that would be effective.

Dr Henry said that the health service had suffered “an unprecedented shock to the system” and that there will be a fall in capacity as social-distancing measures are observed.

Of particular concern to Dr Henry was the worrying trend of outbreaks of the virus in congregated settings such as the workplace and social gatherings. 

He was also concerned about the number of people declining to be tested when identified as a contact of a person who had contracted the virus.

“It is worrying. If you are called you should go for the test.” Dr Henry pointed out that 6-7% of asymptomatic people who had been tested were diagnosed with the virus.

“People are not the best judges for themselves if they need the test.”

Dr Henry said it was very important to contain community transmission otherwise "all bets are off" in Ireland's attempts to recover from the outbreak of the virus.

The HSE confirmed half of close contacts of Covid-19 confirmed cases are failing to turn up for their second test which is conducted seven days after the first.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid described the news of non-attendance as “concerning”, adding that in most cases, people are committing to an appointment and “then they are a no-show”.

“It’s really important, even if you don’t have symptoms, to come forward for a test — for yourself, for your family, for the wider public, to stop the surge from happening,” he said.

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