Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.55 23 Nov 2020


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The head of health systems at DCU says Ireland could be 'largely open by February', but warned that things will have to go in the right direction to get there.

Professor Anthony Staines also says there is 'no painless way' out of coronavirus restrictions.

But he told The Hard Shoulder the evidence suggests lockdowns do not work.

"It is too blunt, it has its uses - but the WHO keeps saying lockdowns are not a way to control viruses.

"So lockdown is about buying time, lockdown is about getting us to a place where we can actually do tracking and tracing.

"At the moment... we have very little evidence about where people are getting this virus - but we've very little evidence because the Government has chosen not to look for it.

"NPHET famously described contact tracing backwards - so we could see where you were infected as of academic interest only.

"But I think [ISME] members could probably tell you: there's a lot more than academic interest riding on knowing where infections are happening".

"It's how we control the infection - we know where people are getting infected - we can do something about it.

"As it is we're relying on evidence from other countries, which does say that bars and restaurants are significant sectors - but it says that other retail is less important as a vector.

"And then the Government could make a decision as to where their priorities lie, where their choices lie.

"There's no painless way out of where we are, but getting out of where we are fast is what my colleagues in the ISAG have been suggesting since June.

"That if we bring this down, eliminate the spread of the virus in the country - which isn't easy, but is absolutely do-able - we can re-open".

'None of that is easy'

He suggested the hospitality sector should stay closed over the Christmas period.

"I think that if we did this and did it seriously, allowing for the fact that things are going to change over Christmas anyway - whatever anyone says - things are going to change over Christmas.

"But we could be in a much better place by the beginning of February and we could - if things went well - be largely open by the end of February."

"Probably what you're talking about is staying at level four over Christmas, giving very clear advice about minimising social contact, not opening the hospitality industry - and I say that with great regret - I would love to be able to go out, but I don't think it's a runner, [and] opening retail under very stringent precautions.

"But really, really, really pushing the public health - really pushing the case finding, the case tracking, the isolation, quarantine at the airports.

"We could actually put a lot of people who are coming into the country into hotels for quarantine, which is what most countries are doing - do it properly.

"And none of that is easy - but it means we're out of this in kind of finite time.

"At the moment, the plan seems to be that we'll got back into another spike in cases in January [and] shut everything down again.

"The businesses in my town are telling me that's the thing that they fear most".

'We could be largely open by February' - Anthony Staines hopeful of easing restrictions

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Main image: Aimsir restaurant in Kildare launches a pop-up food truck for lockdown. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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Anthony Staines COVID Re-opening Professor Anthony Staines Re-opening Restrictions The Hard Shoulder

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