People will 'inevitably' be dying from COVID-19 again in weeks - McConkey


Jack Quann
Jack Quann

09.00 9 Sep 2020


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An infectious disease specialist says he believes people in Ireland will "inevitably" be dying from COVID-19 again in the next few weeks.

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

His warning comes after 307 new cases were confirmed in Ireland on Tuesday.

More than half of the confirmed cases were in Dublin, including 'at least 44' said to be community transmission cases.

It brings the total number of confirmed cases to 30,080, and the death toll to 1,778.

Prof McConkey told Ciara Kelly on Newstalk Breakfast: "I think that it's very, very foolish of anyone to think that this gradual, bit by bit ongoing increase that we've seen from mid-June until now is going to alter or change - and not just going to continue bit by bit, regular, steady increases of approximately 15 or 20% increase cases every week - that that's going to just continue unless we do something.

"The thing that's worrying me is in the last nine days we're now seeing increased hospitalisations again, which we hadn't seen for June, July and August - but now there's people coming in sick to hospital.

"Inevitably in a week or two that's going to continue to rise and there are going to be rising numbers in Intensive Care.

"And then about two weeks after that, inevitably I believe there's going to be people dying from this again.

"What I think we're doing is we're very much back where we were last February/March, although it's going much slower this time because the way we've changed our life, we're increasing but at a slower rate - but that's still a fundamental problem for our country because it's still increasing".

Asked if this slower increase was a positive aspect, he said: "No, this flattening the curve and slow rate is still a disaster.

"The way I would put it in a business analogy is it's like as if your business is turning over, but you're loosing money.

"You're just loosing a little bit each month, but you're basically working in the red at a loss.

"You can do that for three or six months, but we all know as business people you have to change the fundamentals of your business, change your model, so you're not ongoing loosing money".

"So this rising rate is fundamentally a problem, like a business running in the red, so we actually have to change how we do things.

"I refuse to use the 'L' word as you know, I don't like the lockdown word - I believe there are 15/20 other ways of doing it.

"I'd be learning from the best practice in Germany and Japan and Korea and other countries to see how we can get the rate dropping."

He said any approach has to come on an all-island basis as a "joint, large, national and Northern Ireland public policy in unison that's needed".

"The current testing [and] contact tracing is done from very large centres with people doing telephone calls... and they're doing a great job.

"But I'm saying supplement that with face-to-face local area in the places where COVID-19 is happening."

He also said a breakdown of local area data should be available: "There's a map on the website showing the local electoral area, how many cases have occurred in each electoral area in Ireland since February.

"But that's cumulative since February and you can't see what's in the last 14 days versus what happened in March/April.

"So if we had this local area, immediate data... that would help people and empower them and give them the knowledge to work together better to control it in their area".

Main image: People wearing face masks in Dublin city in August 2020. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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COVID-19 Sam McConkey Covid-19 Deaths Ireland Newstalk Breakast Professor Sam McConkey RCSI

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