Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

11.54 11 Oct 2020


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A leading expert in infectious diseases has said that "an incremental rise" in restrictions should be considered to try and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Professor Sam McConkey, head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said the rise in cases was a "national problem".

Three deaths and 1,012 cases were reported yesterday, the highest daily number of new coronavirus cases since the height of the pandemic in April.

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Professor McConkey said yesterday's figures, which included 241 cases in Dublin, show that the trend of numbers remaining level in the county had been "twisted".

Speaking to On The Record With Gavan Reilly, he said the country needs to come up with a medium-term plan to deal with the virus.

He said: "I was hoping with Level 3 that it wouldn't necessarily improve things in Dublin but at least it might level things off and that's certainly what I thought we were seeing but now I'm not confident.

"In other countries were seeing very large jumps in the rate of increase so that's a big worry.

"I feel we've now got a national problem that's spread outside Dublin and Donegal.

"One option might be to go to something like Level 4 in the counties that are getting worse to at least stop them getting worse.

He added: "My view is that we should definitely do some incremental rise in our restrictions in our country at this point otherwise we're just getting worse into a deeper and deeper mire and getting stuck more into a gradually escalating problem."

It comes after the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar previously admitted that a "short, sharp" circuit break lockdown may be needed to reduce COVID-19 case numbers.

'Purgatory'

Prof McConkey said: "We need to take collective action in Ireland to bring down our numbers.

"If we continue where we're at now, it's like purgatory, it's like ongoing, unsatisfactory life with rising numbers of cases in our country, rising numbers of hospitalisations, ICU [admissions] and deaths.

"This current trajectory that we're on at the moment is a very unsatisfactory one."

He added that harsher restrictions now might allow for more freedom in time for Christmas.

He said: "As we did in March, April and May, it was two months of harsher closures than even Level 5, and that did bring down the numbers in June.

"That certainly partially controlled things temporarily.

"That might allow us to have a better Christmas and some more happy social life together and productively over the December/January time.

"I think we need a national discussion on the medium and long term plan."

'Incremental rise' in restrictions could slow spread of COVID-19

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

Lockdown

Prof McConkey also said that implementing restrictions for three of four weeks would be favourable as a fortnight is too short.

He added that a second lockdown could be effective.

He said: "One strategy would be to bounce into [lockdown] for maybe three weeks, a fortnight is too short to see what's happening with this, so three or four weeks and then to have advanced outbreak control and enhanced public health."

Prof McConkey suggested taking VAT off new mobile phones in the upcoming Budget or subsidising the cost of phones on the condition that people use the COVID tracker app effectively.

He also said those aged between ten and 16 should also be permitted access to the app as currently, users must be over 16.

Main image: File photo. Credit: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

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