Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.00 4 Jan 2021


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A public health expert says the coronavirus pandemic 'will be a memory' by this time next year.

It comes as 4,962 more people have been infected with COVID-19 here, a new all-time record for the third day in a row.

That has brought the cumulative total in Ireland past the 100,000 mark for the first time.

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said all this "sickness and suffering" could have been prevented, and is threatening to overwhelm hospitals - where admissions for the virus have doubled in a week.

Seven more patients have died, 62 people are in intensive care, and 92 more people have been hospitalised in the last 24 hours.

Professor Anthony Staines is professor of health systems at Dublin City University (DCU).

He told Breakfast Briefing while these figures are stark, they are actually old.

"It is depressing, but the truth is it happened a little while ago.

"We ran into problems as you know of entering cases that had been tested into the system".

"We hit 100,000 cases several days ago, rather than today, and there's probably about 6,500 cases each day at the moment."

But he said there are ways out of this situation.

"There are ways we can cope with this, there are ways we can get past this."

"It's just going to take some time, and it's going to take some serious re-thinking - perhaps by the Government.

"The endgame for this is the vaccination is coming, and certainly by this time next year this will be a memory.

"I will be very, very surprised if next Christmas is not perfectly normal for all of us.

"So there's a time limit on all of this - vaccination will have this virus pretty, completely under control by certainly autumn at the latest and probably a little bit earlier."

'Counter-productive' on testing

However Prof Staines suggested no longer advising close contacts of confirmed cases to get tested is a mistake.

"I think it is counter-productive - one of the basics of public health is the more you know about the cases you're dealing with the better.

"And there is a real concern that if people don't have tests that they won't get into the records, that they won't be contact traced.

"And that's really important [for] breaking down transmission of the disease.

"And they may continue to behave in ways that increase spread of the disease, so testing is important both administratively and psychologically for people."

He added that any prospect to ramp up testing capacity should be done, with "a number" of testing facilities not in use at the moment.

"I think we should give serious consideration to bringing them online.

"I'm not a testing person and I don't know the feasibility or otherwise of this, but I think we should be testing as much as we possibly can at this stage".

In terms of any future lockdowns, he said: "I think we can decide to make this our last lockdown - but it's not going to happen by accident.

"Unless there's a very clear, coherent plan for that to happen, we are looking into potentially several more lockdowns before the vaccine kicks in".

Coronavirus pandemic 'will be a memory' this time next year - Staines

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Main image: A man wearing a face mask in Dublin city centre as he passes a sign in a retailer window, urging people to wear masks when entering the shop. Picture by: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

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