The risk of coronavirus transmission at this afternoon’s protest in Dublin is “very low” provided people follow social distancing, according to Professor Anthony Staines.
A demonstration highlight violence against women is due to get underway at the spire at 12pm this afternoon.
Organisers ROSA (Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism and Austerity) have urged people to follow coronavirus guidelines while attending.
Further protests are planned for Cork, Limerick and Galway on Thursday.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, DCU Health Systems Professor Anthony Staines said the evidence is “really clear” that COVID-19 largely spreads indoors.
“Going to an event outdoors, it is not zero-risk – especially if there are large numbers of people there and certainly not if they were in very close proximity – but an outdoor event is much lower risk than having the same number of people in the same space indoors,” he said.
“There is a lot of things you can do outdoors. You can stay a little distance away from people, you can wear masks and, in those circumstances, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at the event itself is very low.
“The risk of transmission going to the event, depending on how you choose to travel, may be a different story and if people get together and socialise after the event, again, there is a risk of transmission there but outdoor events as such are at a seriously low risk for COVID.
“Would I go to it? No, not right now, I wouldn’t go to it but I wouldn’t point the finger at someone who made a different choice.”
— ROSA - Socialist Feminist Movement (@RosaWomen) March 15, 2021
He said, “each person has to decide for themselves what they are going to do,” but noted that if they do decide to attend an event with large numbers of people, “it is far safer to do it outdoors than indoors.”
He said outdoors events are a “question of balance,” noting that anyone planning to meet anyone else outdoors ‘really should have a good reason.’
“If you are doing it for a reasonable public process, fair enough but if you are sitting for three hours talking to your friend on a park bench – now it is lower risk than sitting in your kitchen talking to your friends or sitting in your sitting room – but there is still a reasonably high risk of transmission because you are very close together,” he said.
“If you are at a public event with a number of people scattered across space, the risks are much lower.
“If you are at a sporting event, you might be watching a match for an hour and a half cheek by jowl with large numbers of other people – that is a recipe for spreading, especially getting in and out of the stadium.”
Professor Staines said Ireland needs to run a “serious risk analysis” of a range of outdoor activities to decide whether they should be closed.
“Golf for example is brought to mind, playgrounds for example are brought to mind, sports training is an example that is brought to mind,” he said. “I think we should do the risk assessment.
“What is happening at the moment is the number of cases is rising slightly. That is very worrying. Now, hopefully it will start falling again and this will just be a blip but it has been a fairly long blip and the fear is that, at any time, it can take off again.
“So, what we are saying to the Government is, stop using lockdown as the only control mechanism.
“Let’s start doing proper public health, contact tracing, finding out where people are getting infected because largely, we don’t know. We are having this conversation about the safety of this and the safety of that in a vacuum. We don’t know.”
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