McConkey warns coronavirus restrictions could be tightened

An infectious disease specialist has suggested the Government could decide to implement more coro...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.01 20 Nov 2020

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McConkey warns coronavirus res...

McConkey warns coronavirus restrictions could be tightened

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.01 20 Nov 2020

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An infectious disease specialist has suggested the Government could decide to implement more coronavirus restrictions next week, instead of rowing back.

Professor Sam McConkey is head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).

He told The Hard Shoulder other countries have introduced extra measures such as curfews.


But that it is about more than just the numbers of cases.

"I was making the point on Pat Kenny's show that really what we call level five now isn't really the same as what we had back on the 26th of March in Ireland.

"And certainly many other European countries have curfews at night, and many of them are offering people who have COVID-19 mandatory quarantine - written instructions that you have to stay in your house or you've broken a law and their contacts in the same way, and we haven't done that.

"Obviously we all want as much life as possible - I trust our Government, I trust NPHET.

"I think when you compare us to how America or most European countries are doing right now, they've actually guided us really well here and I'm very happy about that.

"I hope that they continue to do that, and I hope everyone continues to listen to them".

'More than just national restrictions'

"It's not just about levels of population controls, it's also about outbreak management.

"In the daily numbers that we get, there's still 60 to 100 outbreaks defined each day.

"And I accept some of them are private houses where you can't really do much, except for those people staying at home.

"But quite a number are still in businesses - so my view is that businesses that have workers, really do need to be supporting the workers if the workers are taking a day off sick to go and get a COVID-19 test.

"Yet I'm sorry to say, that is not universally the practice in Ireland right now.

"Similarly access to GPs - there's some businesses who have migrant workers from other parts of the country [sic] - they're not registered with a GP practice, they don't have accessible, affordable GP practice.

"And even though they've very poor wages [they] don't always have a medical card because they haven't filled in the paperwork."

"So my view is that there's more than just national restrictions of level six... but it's also [about] doing better on the outbreaks.

"I would like to see all the business owners taking some more ownership and management responsibility [sic] for preventing and dealing with the outbreaks in their business - even if it's crowded accommodation for workers".

He also suggested controls have lapsed since March and April.

"Many of us were cleaning hard surfaces, the door plates and the handles and the tables - the hard surfaces - in our work environment every hour".

"We were making sure a toilet for three people was only being used by one at a time... and of course we were eating outside, which was lovely in the nice summer sun.

"Eating outside isn't so easy now in the winter, but those are the sort of things: well ventilated rest areas, ventilated cafeteria, socially-spaced cafeteria that in my view the businesses of Ireland should be really focusing on to try and help bringing the numbers down".

'We still have the power'

It comes after the HSE's Chief Clinical Officer (CCO) Dr Colm Henry said the recent plateau in coronavirus figures is "concerning," but there is still time to get things under control for the Christmas season.

He told Newstalk Breakfast: "Yes, it's concerning that the fall has stalled,” he said. “We saw a dramatic fall, up to last week, of 6% per day.

“In fact, we were the second-best performing country in Europe, in terms of that drop and that still remains the case when we look at what's happening in mainland Europe.

“We've been asked from the very beginning, 'what if something happens in two to three weeks’ time' as if we are passive bystanders, watching something play out in front of us – that's not the case.

“What I would say to anybody listening today is, we still have the power to create the widest possible amount of options for ourselves in two or three weeks time

“That R value we all talk about as if it's some inanimate figure that means nothing to us is the cumulative sum total of a million small behaviours throughout society and each and every one of us has a part to play in that."

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