Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

19.45 25 May 2020


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An expert on disease control has warned we could face another surge in coronavirus cases if restrictions continue to be eased - suggesting there's "no way to get to phase five" without a second wave.

Prof Gerry Killeen, AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology at University College Cork, spoke to The Pat Kenny Show.

He suggested "we're a long way" from reaching zero new cases of the virus being reported.

'No way to get to phase five' without second wave of coronavirus cases, expert warns

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Prof Killeen told Pat: "Unfortunately we're still at the start of it.

"Last time I looked at a report from some people who know what they're doing in Institut Pasteur, they reckoned France was about 6% of the way through its pandemic wave.

"In France, it's in the region of 400,000-500,000 deaths directly attributable to COVID - here in Ireland, it's in the region of about 40-50,000."

He suggested "the danger" is people thinking the virus isn't around as the daily numbers remain low.

He argued: "It's unlikely that we're picking up more than 20% of all the COVID cases that are out there - so you're actually looking at 250 - 500 cases a day... possibly a thousand cases a day.

"The only number that works is zero, and we're a long way from zero."

Prof Killeen said what "scares" him about the easing of restrictions is that it sends out the message that "we're almost there".

He said: "When we get to zero cases then we can say we're at the beginning of the end.

"Then we can get onto our countdown clock - like people living in Ebola outbreaks do, like countries that emerge from malaria endemicity do"

'Improving restrictions'

According to Prof Killeen, prioritising the easing of restrictions on the construction industry makes since as they have "culture and procedures" for safety measures.

However, he said there are opportunities to "improve" restrictions more generally.

He observed: "It's not fair to give people running restaurants or hairdressers... lots and lots of different industries... the impression there are ways of doing this without launching a second wave."

He said he believes a second wave of cases is inevitable if we remain on the path we're on to 'phase five' of easing restrictions later in the summer, and that any second wave would 'reset' the clock.

Prof Killeen also said he's "shocked" that we're still talking about outbreaks in care homes in Ireland.

He observed: "Hong Kong, which has a border with China, has had zero fatalities in their care homes... as they basically did all the right things immediately".

He also pointed to countries such as Bermuda, New Zealand, Namibia and Taiwan as being countries who are in the "right club" in terms of their response to the pandemic.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

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