Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.10 9 Jun 2020


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An immunology expert says Ireland can suppress the coronavirus like New Zealand without further economic shutdowns.

It comes as more than 1,000 Irish scientists and doctors have warned that the country must completely eliminate COVID-19 before a return to normal life, with total suppression.

The widespread wearing of masks, faster testing and contact tracing, the testing of visitors at airport and a review the lockdown are all included to 'crush the curve'.

Dr Tomas Ryan is assistant professor at the school of biochemistry and immunology at Trinity College Dublin.

He told Pat Kenny: "I think we're certainly moving too fast, principally because our containment measures aren't in place.

"We are advocating for a scientific perspective in orientating our strategy for how we deal with COVID-19 in Ireland.

"But our motivation is to avoid lockdowns - what we want to do is avoid any further lockdowns so that we don't have more catastrophic economic consequences.

"Currently, we are on path for a second surge - and that second surge may happen in mid-summer or it may happen in the autumn.

"That will lead to another lockdown; and we won't have herd immunity in Ireland unless we suffer four to seven, or maybe more, of these lockdowns so that we can build up 65% infections in the population.

"That's what we want to avoid, and we think there's a better way of handling COVID-19 in Ireland."

He outlined two options, one of which is to suppress the virus as we have been doing.

"That would mean we would keep it like South Korea - we would live with virus but keep a flat curve, no new lockdowns until we have a vaccine.

"But the other option, which is what we're advocating for in this letter, is to go to where New Zealand has gone [and] eliminate the virus".

"There's an argument that we couldn't do this in March because we didn't have enough advance warning, but we have a second chance now - because our infection numbers are back to where they were at March 11th.

"If we keep going the way we're going, we're going to be back into mid-March - we're going to get there a little bit more slowly because of social distancing, but we'll face a second surge.

"Or we can choose to aim for what New Zealand did.

"This is where there's a number of different ways where we could implement this.

"Some people are quite right to say we could do this with a very sharp lockdown - and by sharp I mean slightly more rigorous than what we've experienced, and maybe only for four weeks."

"It could [also] be done by a hybrid approach of careful social distancing, localised lockdowns where necessary, masks and rigorous test-trace-isolate.

"So we don't need to shut down the economy, necessarily, to eliminate the virus - we certainly do need to watch travel into the country."

On the border issue, he said: "I think we could achieve at least the South Korean level of suppression without Northern Ireland cooperation.

"But... if we want to get to the New Zealand level of complete nonality, we really do probably need an all-Ireland approach.

"But I'm not too worried about that because I think that if we lead, I think that they will follow and I think it's a much better approach than going with what's been happening in Great Britain".

"This is our opportunity, it's the summer - we've got everything under control, we don't want to be in a situation where we arrive into September, it gets more difficult to manage because of winter, because of flu season and we ask ourselves why didn't we do this four months ago.

"We can make hay now and we should".

Experts present options to fully suppress COVID-19 while keeping the economy open

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Main image: Diners in an almost deserted cafe in Dublin's Temple Bar. Picture by: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

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Coronavirus Covid-19 Dr Tomas Ryan Ireland Lockdowns New Zealand Northern Ireland Suppression Trinity College Dublin

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