Public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally has said that the economic consequences of continuing “on with the rollercoaster ride” of up and down Covid-19 figures could be really difficult and the best way of avoiding them was to get the number of cases down to zero.
The number of cases of the virus in Ireland recently was "disturbing", he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show, but clusters could be dealt with and he was an advocate for a ‘Zero Covid’ approach across the island.
“There's always more to be done until the virus is eliminated,” he added.
“I think the numbers are disturbing - when I hear a report on the radio that the level per population is higher in the Republic of Ireland than in the United Kingdom, I worry."
It was reported yesterday that Ireland's incidence of cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days is now higher than the UK, at 18.5.
Dr Scally said: "When you know it is consisting of substantial clusters, there is less worry because those clusters can be dealt with.”
He said that clearly the issue of clusters in food processing plants needed to be “sorted out” and this might require special measures.
Dr Scally pointed to issues around people isolating as one issue that might need to be addressed - in particular ensuring people have the ability to isolate if they need to.
He said: “A small number of people are not very keen on coming forward for testing, because they know if they test positive they may have to stop working - and they’ve got no means of supporting themselves, and maybe their families as well.
“The economic consequences of going on with this rollercoaster ride of up and down are really, really difficult: the best way of avoiding them is to get the virus down to zero, and put on strict public health controls at borders to make sure we don’t import cases.
Dr Scally said that if he was an employer he would do everything possible to help his staff avoid the virus in the first place.
He also said that it was vital for children to get back to school.
“Kids getting safely back into schools safely is extraordinarily important,” he added.