Any inquiry into Ireland’s COVID response will find that the country “did very well overall”, Professor Luke O’Neill has said.
The government is expected to establish the inquiry by the middle of this year – with officials working on the final details of how it should be set up.
One of the decisions that has yet to be made is whether sessions will be held in public – with concerns in some quarters that high levels of media attention could prevent the inquiry from functioning properly.
It is believed the inquiry will focus on things that can be done better in the future rather than finding fault with individual people or bodies.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Professor Luke O’Neill said he expects the results to be positive.
“This inquiry is going to have a look at our performance as a country, which is an interesting topic isn’t it to see how well we did,” he said. “We’re going to be interested to see what that inquiry shows.
“I suspect it is going to be relatively positive actually because Ireland did well.
“We are the sixth best in Europe in terms of our death rate for example and of course, we are in the upper part for vaccination – we are with the Scandinavians, which is where we always wanted to be.
“So overall, those two things show Ireland did very well overall.”
When some of the country’s failures were put to him, he admitted that “there will be lessons” in the findings, but noted that the virus was “very much a moving target at the time”.
Prof O’Neill also discussed a major new study which found that many patients who suffered severe COVID ended up with heart damage.
“That was always there,” he said. “Even two years ago, there was some evidence of heart damage during the infection.
“As we know, it is a lung disease mainly that affects your lungs and your breathing is affected, but there was some evidence of heart disturbance as well.
“Now a big paper has come out confirming that and giving a mechanism on how the heart is being damaged by this virus and the possible long-term consequences – so it is quite important.”
He said the study shows that one-in-eight patients who were hospitalised with the virus suffered some form of heart damage.
The study showed that even people with mild infections can experience problems.
“One of the key messages is if anybody has had COVID and you are worried about your heart, go and see your doctor because of this link,” he said.
Prof O’Neill confirmed that, in “extremely rare” cases, vaccines can also lead to heart problems.
He said the numbers are very small – with 29 cases per million in the 18 to 29-year-old group and 11 cases per million in under-18’s.
“It is so rare that it wouldn’t justify not using the vaccine because the risk of a heart problem from getting the virus is much higher,” he said.
“So, it is the usual risk/benefit thing, but it turns out the vaccine has a tiny risk of heart problems as well.”
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