Ireland is sleepwalking towards a major surge in COVID-19 infections in the coming months, a group of experts have warned.
In their presentation to the Oireachtas committee, the Zero Covid Island Group said if Ireland adopted more restrictive measures over the coming weeks, it could avoid a winter surge of coronavirus.
The group warned that the current roadmap will see COVID-19 cases surge in October and November.
Professor Ivan Perry, Dean of Public Health at University College Cork (UCC), and a member of the Zero Covid Island Group, presented a briefing to the Oireachtas yesterday, in which the group called for immediate action.
“Without a fundamental change in the current strategy of attempting to live with the virus, we are sleep-walking towards a major surge of infections in October - November of this year,” warned Professor Perry.
“If we are willing to adopt more restrictive measures over the next few weeks, there is a real possibility that we can avoid this winter surge, begin to open up our economy and return to near normal life much earlier than is likely with the current policy of temporising with the virus,” he added.
The Zero Covid Island Group said it is aiming to promote Ireland towards a roadmap for achieving a sustained period of time without community transmission of COVID-19.
To do this, the group said adherence to hand hygiene must be maintained, there must be more consistent social distancing and widespread use of masks, especially indoors.
The group also advocated for more active case finding in terms of testing, tracing and better support for isolation, as well as no non-essential foreign travel, even to so-called ‘green zones’.
They also called for testing, isolation, and tracking the movements of incoming people at ports and airports.
The group said that the goal is to return life, and the economy, back to “nearly normal”.
“We estimate that we can bring COVID to zero cases per day in between four and six weeks, and then begin a cautious return to normal life,” they said in their submission to the Oireachtas.
“Many things now open will stay open, but no large events will be allowed.
“Strict control over unsafe high density housing, the meat industry, and other major sources of outbreaks, will be brought in,” they added.
“A Zero COVID Ireland allows safe return to work, to school, and will support the recovery of our society and economy.” The group also criticised Ireland’s current policy for emerging from lockdown, saying that while the original lockdown was effective, the rising number of cases in recent weeks “shows the limits” of Ireland’s approach to “live with the virus”.
The group said Ireland needs to get ahead of the rising cases.
While they added that “extraordinary progress” has been made on developing a possible vaccine, it may not arrive by April 2021 as some are predicting.