A World Health Organisation Special Envoy on COVID-19 has urged Irish officials to hold firm and tackle outbreaks as they occur at a local level.
It comes after 200 new cases were reported around the country on Saturday – the highest number since the national lockdown was partially lifted.
The National Public Health Emergency Team is expected to make further recommendations to Government after meeting to discuss the situation today.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, WHO Special Envoy Dr David Nabarro said the recent surges show that Ireland’s testing and tracing infrastructure is working.
“Part of me is saying this is a good sign and I would like to encourage Dr Glynn and all those involved in the response to really try and hold the situation they are in and keep on top of the virus,” he said.
“There may be a need for some localised movement restrictions just while the outbreaks are dealt with. I have heard that in some cases they are in factories that are working in very cold atmospheres so there is work to be done there.
“But my basic reaction is that this is a good sign because it shows there is a really good system functioning in Ireland to look out for new cases as they emerge.”
He said future lockdowns should be targeted at a local level as cluster emerge.
“You need two things if you are trying to control this,” he said. “First of all, you need a nationwide assessment of where the virus is and where it is building up. It builds up really fast so you have to have that working in real time.
“The second thing is you need to be able, at local level, to basically take apart a cluster and stop the outbreaks from building up.
“That is done by isolating people and getting all the different actors at local level to work together.”
He said the country must push ahead with the reopening of schools – but said some may need to be shut in response to local outbreaks.
“You have got to look at a school within the local context,” he said. “So, if there are very sharp rises in an area where there is a school, there may be a very good cases for postponing opening or even closing again.
“But on the other hand, if there are very low cases in a school area then it is important to get the kids back if teachers are ready, yes.”
More than 21 million cases of the virus have been confirmed around the world since the outbreak began with just over 761,000 deaths recorded.
Dr Nabarro said there are encouraging indications that the death rate is not as high around the world as it was in Europe earlier this year.
“In some parts of the world I am afraid there are still a lot of people dying. If you look at the statistics in North America, particularly the US, they are unfortunate.
“Also, there are quite high deaths rates in Latin America and India but still much lower when you look at them crudely compared with what was happening in Europe earlier this year.
“We don’t know why. Partly because the age structure of the population is different but there may also be other factor like perhaps they have been exposed to other similar coronaviruses in their history.
“So, we are not sure but goodness that is a piece of good news. The bad news is that the virus is continuing to spread rather mercilessly around the world.”
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