A Cork public health expert has voiced concern that Ireland could be reopening society “slightly too quickly” and says he is particularly worried about the timing of the re-opening of wet pubs.
Speaking to the Echo, Professor Ivan Perry, Professor of Public Health and Head of the Department of Epidemiology & Public Health at UCC said that his initial reaction to the publication of the Government’s Resilience & Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19 was one of cautious welcome, but said he did have some worries.
“There are many aspects of the plan which are clearly very sensible and it’s good that the Government is setting out a strategy for the next few months, albeit a strategy that’s probably going to have to be changed and may have to be changed at short notice,” he said.
Professor Perry has been an advocate for the Covid-19 elimination strategy which he says “would mean you would take stronger measures now for four to six weeks with the hope that you would ultimately open up sooner and you would be opening up in different parts of the country as community transmission fell to zero.”
He noted that the Government strategy was a different strategy of living with the virus and of gradually opening up and being ready to close down if we have to.
He said that he appreciated that the Government is doing its best and said that “no-one can be absolutely certain what is the best balance to strike.”
However, Professor Perry said that overall he was concerned “we may be opening up slightly too quickly”.
He highlighted how the outbreak is concentrated in Dublin at the moment and how people living in the capital are being encouraged not to move around the country.
The UCC professor said that the advice on this may need to be "clearer and firmer" adding “we may be underusing the strategy of travel restrictions”.
Professor Perry said he was also concerned about the timing of re-opening pubs at the same time that students are returning to college.
“Cork, in particular, is a student city,” he said adding, “you’d still be concerned at the pubs opening a week before the students come back. I think they could probably have been separated in time a bit better - it would have been sensible.
“We all understand the pressure that the pubs are under and the fact that they’ve been closed for months and months… I personally would have liked to have seen the pubs pushed back a bit.”
Professor Perry said that students returning to colleges and universities over the coming weeks will be coming back to a very different environment.
“The college has put in a huge amount of work to ensure the safety of students and staff on the campus and a clear message will be going out to students in terms of physical distancing, and avoid congregating, but we have to be realistic and accept that the level of compliance with that mightn’t be as high as we would wish,” he said.
The public health expert cautioned that while Cork has done well during the outbreak that this could change.
“We have a long way to go- that could change very quickly - it just takes one or two super spreader type events that are not dealt with for things to get out of hand fairly quickly,” he said.