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COVID cases could get 'out of control' if reopening happens too fast - Staines

A public health expert says he's concerned COVID-19 cases could get "out of control" if reopening...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

07.53 27 Aug 2021


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COVID cases could get 'out of control' if reopening happens too fast - Staines


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

07.53 27 Aug 2021


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A public health expert says he's concerned COVID-19 cases could get "out of control" if reopening happens too fast.

Anthony Staines says he'd favour a "more cautious" approach, especially amid concerns Ireland could see a "significant rise" in cases among children as schools reopen.

The COVID Cabinet Sub-Committed meets later today, ahead of the publication of a new roadmap for the easing of restrictions next Tuesday.

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It had been expected that restrictions would be eased on a step-by-step basis across September and October.

However, NPHET has advised the Government that some significant restrictions should stay until 90% of over-16s are fully vaccinated - a goal that may not be reached until October.

Senior ministers will discuss the advice today, with the full Cabinet set to sign off on the plan early next week.

On Breakfast Briefing, Anthony Staines - Professor of Health Systems at DCU - said vaccination has "changed the outlook completely".

However, he said COVID-19 is still a serious disease that can cause significant disruption.

He said: “I think what’s going to happen now is a significant rise in cases in children. We’ve seen a number of countries where this has happened.

“In older people, there are still many cases - the majority of these cases do not end up in hospital. But if there are enough cases, enough people fall ill and enough people die to cause really quite serious health problems.

“When we get to 90% of the whole population [vaccinated], we can maybe have other conversations.”

"I would be more cautious"

Professor Staines said the current reopening decisions are political rather than technical.

He believes a choice has been made to allow a serious respiratory virus to become endemic in the population - in other words, that the virus would "become effectively a normal part of everyday life".

He observed: "I’m not sure people have really understood what the consequences of that choice are going to be for the next few years.

“I would be more cautious than the Government because I think this could get out of control faster than they expect and cause more problems.

“Influenza is very expensive - it costs a great deal of money to the country, the economy and the health service. It’s likely COVID-19 will be substantially worse than influenza.”

ISAG - a group Professor Staines is a member of - has called for more measures to be put in place for schools, in particular around ventilation.

Other countries have installed air filtration systems in classrooms - a move Professor Staines believes Ireland should copy.

He said: “These are devices around the size of a kitchen chair, costing a couple of hundred euros”.

While such devices are low cost, Professor Staines suggested Government seems “unwilling” to make the modest investment involved.

He said there can be significant problems if a lot of children get sick with COVID.

He said the risk of serious illness among children is rare but "not zero".

Main image: File photo of COVID testing. Picture by: Samantha Zucchi /Insidefoto/Sipa USA)

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