THE Dean of Public Health at University College Cork, Ivan Perry, has said that he believes the Government made a mistake by reopening the country ahead of schedule prior to the festive season.
Prof Perry, who is also a member of the Zero Covid Ireland group, acknowledged the Government faced a tough balancing act in its bid to protect the economy, but said that ultimately its decision proved to be a mistake.
“It is very hard for them,” he said. “I think it was a mistake.
“Everybody in public health knew that if we opened the restaurants and relaxed coming up to Christmas this would happen. I can understand there was huge pressure from businesses to open up. Businesses will do better in the long run if we get on top of the virus. If we keep opening up and closing down, we will remain in a yo-yo scenario.
“We keep hearing that we are totally different from Australia and New Zealand. We are not that different from Australia. They had their own unique challenges, but they took a strong public health approach and they didn’t have management of the pandemic by committees. Their businesses, as a result, have benefitted from that.”
Due to the alarming rise in positive Covid-19 cases nationwide, Prof Perry is anticipating Nphet recommending that current restrictions are enforced for an extended period of time.
“The current situation is alarming in the sense that we are probably the highest incidence rate in the world and we are in the middle of a severe surge,” he said.
“We have the vaccine to look forward to, but it is not going to rescue us in the short term. We just have to get these numbers down in the foreseeable future. We are probably going to have to tighten things up a bit more, in terms of extending the lockdown for another few weeks and reducing the 5km radius to 2km.
“The worry is the lockdown measures that previously worked may not work now as we are dealing with a more contagious strain of the virus. We need to keep reminding people that we are in a more precarious situation now and we need people to keep doing the basics.”
Prof Perry is hopeful the rollout of the vaccine suggests a brighter future lies in store.
“The vaccine gives us hope,” he said.
“If we go in hard now, we have a realistic prospect of getting us through to the vaccine. No one wants to be injured in the last battle of the war. Now is the time to implement public health measures to tide us over until the end is in sight.”
He also revealed that public health figures had predicted this global pandemic would occur due to climate change and global warming.
Prof Perry hopes the Government will keep investing in its infrastructure to ensure we are well equipped to meet expected health challenges in the future.
“This pandemic highlights the need for us to invest in our public health infrastructure in terms of public health specialists,” he said.
“If we also invest in scientists and IT structures, we can be ready for the next pandemic.”