Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

07.49 15 Jul 2020


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'We're all getting a little bit complacent' about the COVID-19 situation in Ireland, an expert has warned.

Professor Karina Butler, infectious disease specialist at Children’s Health Ireland, says we can't just blame travel for recent cases, as there's a lot of transmission through 'household clusters' and close contacts here.

It comes as the Government is set to decide this evening if Phase 4 of reopening the economy can go ahead on Monday.

If approved, pubs that do not serve food would be allowed resume trading.

However, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has expressed concern about moving to what would be the final phase of the re-opening of the economy.

Much of the concern relates to the amount of young people getting the virus and an increase in the reproductive rate.

Yesterday saw 32 new cases confirmed - the highest number in several weeks.

Professor Butler told Newstalk Breakfast that any new cases are now a cause for concern.

'We're all getting a little bit complacent' about COVID-19, expert warns

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She said: "What we had hoped is that we would aim towards really elimination of this virus in Ireland.

"The problem is it's not gone away. The other problem is because the numbers have gone so low, all of us - myself included - if we look at our behaviours, we're getting a little bit complacent.

"There has been a tendency to say this is all travel, and travel is introducing it. Certainly there have been some cases that are linked to travel, and that's another issue we have to deal with. But there are also a lot that are, if you'd like, household clusters.

"Most of these cases arise in terms of close contacts, and that sort of shows us that we're slipping in doing the things that we know will break the chain of transmission - washing your hands, face masks, cough etiquette."

She said there is reason to be "really encouraged" that the number of new cases remains relatively low - but that it would be great if it was "even lower".

Pointing to recent increases in the number of young people being infected, she observed: "What we don't know is if in two weeks we'll see that age line creeping up as the younger people go home and mix with their elders?

"I think we have to be very cautious, and we have to rely on the public to show they're more committed to the measures that are being put out there, such as the wearing of face masks on transport and in shops."

She said there remains a need to balance whatever risk there is associated with the virus with the "risk to the economy and the livelihood of people" who are working in impacted industries.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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