Ireland is likely to enter Level Three restrictions when lockdown is lifted at the end of the month, according to an infectious disease expert.
It comes after the Taoiseach said a decision on lifting Level Five will be made next week.
Micheál Martin told a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party last night that a Dáil debate will take place on Tuesday, with a final decision due later this week.
Health officials have warned that the initial improvements in case rates has stalled and last night, reported 12 further deaths and 379 new cases were reported.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Professor Sam McConkey said he hopes to see daily case rates dropping further in the coming days.
“I think the optimist in me is hoping thar over the next two weeks we will start to decline again,” he said.
“Some people have put this plateau down to partying and socialising over the Halloween weekend, which some of us did.
“So optimistically it will drop over the next two weeks, perhaps, to somewhere around 100 to 150 cases a day. That is not as good of course as where we were in June when we were down to five or ten cases a day but it is still better than where we were in October.”
Professor McConkey said the lack of progress with Level Five shows it may be time for a new strategy – with some form of mass testing brought in to replace rolling lockdowns.
He said he expects to see “gradual easing of restrictions, probably down to Level Three” in December.
“That will allow retail to open,” he said. “The challenge will be then for the toy shops of Ireland to open in the very safe way that our supermarkets did back in March and April.
“Our supermarkets had supervised queuing outside, limited people in at one time, people keeping two metres away from each other and wearing masks. The supermarkets of Ireland did a great job in feeding us.”
Professor McConkey said Level Three will do nothing to reduce the virus – but may keep it in check over the holidays.
“I think the Level Three, we have seen from doing it before in Ireland, that kind of keeps things as they are,” he said. “It is like a holding pattern over Gatwick if you like.
“You are going round and round and it kind of keeps cases similar. It doesn’t fix the problem. It doesn’t get the numbers down but it doesn’t allow things to go completely out of control.
“I feel socially and culturally we need some sort of celebration in our lives at this time and Christmas is our traditional one and Level Three would do that safely.
“But it’s not a long-term solution to COVID. It is just a safe way to have a bit of fun.”
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