It is time to trust people to make their own decisions about protecting themselves from coronavirus, according to an immunovirology expert.
Health officials will tomorrow offer Government their opinion on easing Level Five restrictions from April 5th; however, fluctuating case numbers in recent days have led to concerns in some quarters.
The Health Minister has said Cabinet will consider easing restrictions on meeting up outdoors but warned that any changes must be “relatively low risk” in terms of virus spread.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, UCC Immunovirology Professor Liam Fanning said the Government is being too cautious in its approach.
“It is time that autonomy was returned to individuals,” he said. “You give them the information and you let them make an evidence-based assessment of the risk.
“In lots of counties now at the moment, the daily average is less than five per 100,000.
“We have done what lockdown can achieve and look, [WHO Health Emergencies Executive Director] Michael Ryan, a year ago, said that if you have got to lockdown, you have lost sight of the virus.
“So, look, I think the over-negative message from Government and many individuals is to stoke kind of an element of, ‘oh my god, we better stay in, this is deadly, this out there, this is everywhere.’
“It is not everywhere. I think the data says that. We have had some counties that have had no virus on a couple of days. Then they come back to a couple and they dip down again.”
He noted that counties like Cork have seen very few cases recently and now have some of the lowest incidence rates in Ireland.
“We need some out of the box thinking to try and sort this out,” he said.
“We have done the lockdown; we have done the restrictions – let the vaccinated meet. I think the population has done the right thing. People are stretching the barriers and that is probably a good thing because that means that the data showing small numbers in particular counties is supportive of the fact that you are not getting rippling runaway infections.”
He also called for a regional response whereby counties that have lower viral levels have lighter restrictions.
He was speaking after Dr Gerald Barry, Assistant Professor of Virology at UCD called for elderly people who have already been vaccinated to be allowed to meet and visit with each other.
Professor Fanning said he “absolutely” agrees.
“I think people that have been ten days plus past their second vaccine dose should be allowed to meet other vaccinated people more or less without restrictions,” he said. “I think it is time for the vaccine bonus.
“We realise that this vaccine is a wonderful tool in our armoury and with 97% effectiveness in preventing symptomatic disease, this vaccine can achieve what we want it to achieve.
“We couldn’t have asked for a higher target and I think let the vaccinated meet. Let them have vaccine pods. Let them assess the situation and make sure that nobody in their group has been in contact with somebody waiting for a test result – the usual stuff.”
He noted that ideally people who have recently tested positive for the virus should have the same freedoms as those who are vaccinated – but warned that it would be ‘tricky’ to enforce as the Government has no record of individual test results.
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