New COVID-19 alert system to guide local lockdowns


Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

08.45 10 Sep 2020


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A new COVID-19 alert system will introduce local lockdowns based on the level of infections in a county or region.

The Government is due to publish the plan which will include five levels of restrictions.

The Irish Independent reports that the levels will be set out depending on a variety of factors including the number of new cases per 100,000 people.

Tony O'Brien, the former Director General of the HSE, said the system could potentially work effectively.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he said it is trying to mirror the type of practice in place for adverse weather alerts.

He said: "We've all learned to relate to that colour coding type of systems and maybe it will work.

"There is a reality that as much as we would like this to be simple, it's not.

"This is moving in different ways in different places.

"We can't have a simple one size fits all for the entire county because there's no point heading towards these type of lockdown scenarios in places where there might actually be very little coronavirus in circulation.

"While at the same time for limited periods of time in particular locations, we might have to ask people to be much more careful.

He said the "short-term localised measures" like those in Kildare, Offaly and Laois had a "very positive impact on what was otherwise going to be a very serious situation".

He added: "I think that gives grounds to those who have to lead this through this process to believe that type of approach is where we need to go."

Daily figures 'don't mean a great deal'

Mr O'Brien said that people need to continue to be vigilant in trying to combat the virus.

He said: "We all need to remember that we have to treat everyone as being possibly the person that could infect us with COVID and we also need to respect that we could also be the person likely to infect them with COVID.

"It is very clear that the numbers are rising and rising to fast and if they continue to rise at that rate then we're going to have a big problem."

He added that the daily release of new COVID-19 case numbers is not as significant as examining the 14-day incidence rate.

He said: "Although it's difficult not to notice when there is a very high number, those daily figures don't mean a great deal.

"I think the number of cases per 100,000 over a given period of time and how those change is what's important.

Mr O'Brien said that the situation in Ireland "has changed very dramatically over the last six or eight weeks".

He said: "It was always going to change once we began to open up and get back to business and get schools reopened, those are things we have to do.

"It does strengthen the message that NPHET has said very clearly from the tracing they are doing that 50% of cases are arising from close contacts, from family-like contacts in home environments.

"We need to contain the transmission of the virus in those situations in order to keep the overall level of the virus at a level we can manage."

Main image: File photo of former HSE director general Tony O'Brien. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

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