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Prof. Gerry Killeen, AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology, UCC.Picture Denis Minihane.
Prof. Gerry Killeen, AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology, UCC.Picture Denis Minihane.
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1,000 Covid cases a day possible in two months warns UCC virologist

A UCC virologist claims the country will have 1,000 cases of Covid-19 within eight weeks if the current trend continues and schools are allowed to reopen.

Professor Gerry Killeen, AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences in UCC, said Ireland is going down the wrong path in reopening schools.

In an interview on the Opinion Line, on 96FM, Professor Killeen said our incidence numbers of Covid are ten times higher than they were in June.

"That has been over two months. In two months from now unless we change something it will be a thousand per day and two months after that there is no reason to believe it wouldn't be ten thousand a day.

"That is just extending the existing trend without allowing for any further relaxations one of which will include the reopening of schools.

"If you follow the standard rules of exponential growth that is where it takes us unfortunately."

Professor Killeen warns that it is unsafe to open schools in the midst of what he believes is a critical juncture.

"When we reopen our schools it is not going to slow things down. Now none of us know how much it is going to accelerate things because it is all the little things that add up. They all multiple it by each other. It can only accelerate it to some extent.

"Even without reopening the schools we are already in trouble. The tragedy is if we maintained what we were doing all the way up to the end of June we could be reopening the schools safely today. That is what is killing me. This is all very predictable.” 

The Professor, who specialises in infectious diseases, says there is a great deal of international evidence about increased outbreaks of Covid-19 following the reopening of schools.

"This is so much evidence about outbreaks from schools all over the world. Israel is an extreme example. They made the same mistakes we are making all across Europe right now. They decided it was all over and decided to start rebooting things.

"They started with the schools. Then they were hit by a heatwave which meant they closed the windows and switched on the AC. A lot of people took their masks off.

"Israel is an extreme example of just how much schools can contribute.

"New Zealand just before they eliminated their outbreak their biggest outbreak was in school. There were school outbreaks in Australia. As of yesterday, there was 15 teachers and two students confirmed with Covid in Dundee in Scotland. The United States is full of schools that reopened that have closed again."

He also believes that pubs and restaurants should be closed whilst admitting that it is not fair just to point the finger of blame at the hospitality sector.

"It is all the little things we do that multiply by each other. It's the barbecues we plan in the back garden that move indoors becauese the rain hit. It is the rugby club that has sixteen lads packing down against each other which I find bizarre. I find it amazing in the middle of a pandemic of physically contagious pathogens.

"It is not any of those things it is the combination of them all. And the schools fall into that broad picture. It is just one more bit of weight on one side of the scales.” 

He is calling for a 'Zero Covid Island' approach to the epidemic which aims to reduce the Covid-19 incidence nationwide to zero before the economy and society is reopened.