Opening pubs over Christmas period could send us back to heightened restrictions warns Cork expert

Opening pubs over Christmas period could send us back to heightened restrictions warns Cork expert

“I just can’t see a good scenario to open the pubs to be perfectly honest,” he said.

A UCC professor has expressed concern about a potential spike in Covid-19 cases, warning that rushing out of level 5 restrictions may hinder Ireland’s progress.

Speaking to The Echo, Ivan Perry, Professor of Public Health in the School of Epidemiology at University College Cork, said that while numbers have dropped slightly, level 5 restrictions were not as effective as he had hoped.

His comments come just as the country is due to see an easing of restrictions.

“It’s clear that level 5 hasn’t been as effective as we would have hoped, and there’s a number of things going on there,” said Prof Perry.

He added the re-opening of restaurants and pubs could negatively impact progress on reducing cases.

“I just can’t see a good scenario to open the pubs to be perfectly honest,” he said.

“The restaurants could be potentially opened but with the measures that were there in the past and obviously just reinforcing with people over Christmas to stay within their family groups.

“Things are moving slower than we like so we just have to reinforce the message that we’re still in a fairly hazardous phase.”

“In winter, we’re spending more time indoors and more time in congregated settings so that makes any respiratory virus harder to control and I think there’s a sense as we move into the end of November and December, people are feeling the pressure to go out more socialising and shopping but certainly, I don’t think the scale of physical distancing is at the level it was.”

Professor Perry echoed many of the concerns which were raised by chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan this week.

Dr Holohan said he fears the population may drop their guard in terms of Covid-19 guidelines, pointing to recent research that has shown that people are feeling less worried about Covid-19. Ahead of a move from Level 5 on 1 December, Professor Perry warned that Ireland should ensure not to “rush out of Level 5”, warning that we could see a significant surge after Christmas.

“Obviously, there is going to be huge pressure over the Christmas period, but I think that Nphet will want to hold off particularly on the pubs and the restaurants.

“We could be into very serious numbers after Christmas again,” he warned.

With complacency and the Christmas period posing a threat to Covid-19 cases, Professor Perry has looked to Australia and New Zealand, who he described as “reaping the benefits” of border closure.

If Ireland had closed borders over the summer period, Professor Perry believes that we might have been in a better position in the run-up to Christmas.

“I know it’s not what people want to hear but, the countries that are successful have literally turned off the tap in terms of people coming in from outside.

“Obviously, the border would still be closed and that is the downside but the rest of the economy and the bars and the restaurants and the football matches and so on could be open and that is the lesson,” he said.

Now, Professor Perry is hoping that clear guidelines will be provided for Christmas, in order to bring down the five-day moving average, which is currently at 333 cases per day.

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