'It's all too obsessed with optics': Cork professor on Covid response

“We’ve never had an admission that schools basically have driven this fourth wave."
'It's all too obsessed with optics': Cork professor on Covid response

Speaking to The Echo, AXA Research Chair of Applied Pathogen Ecology at University College Cork (UCC) and one of the founding members of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) Gerry Killeen said that looking forward, “a rational target for spring, and an ambitious one, would be to restore a bit of hope and a rational target for summer would be to put ourselves into a position where we can really finally start thinking about exiting from this one [wave]”. Picture Denis Minihane.

A Cork-based professor has said that the most realistic target for Christmas “is to minimise the trauma involved” in the current Covid-19 situation.

Speaking to The Echo, AXA Research Chair of Applied Pathogen Ecology at University College Cork (UCC) and one of the founding members of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) Gerry Killeen said that looking forward, “a rational target for spring, and an ambitious one, would be to restore a bit of hope and a rational target for summer would be to put ourselves into a position where we can really finally start thinking about exiting from this one [wave]”.

Speaking about the country’s contact tracing system, he said: 

“We exceeded our contact tracing and management capacity at 600 cases a day, all the folks down in that pump room, they all drowned.

“There’s nothing they can do. They go to the office and do as much as they can but ultimately that system that kept us safe from Alpha for an awfully long time and kept schools open for an awfully long time, that whole system just went underwater when we hit hundreds of cases a day - then did nothing and let it keep on ploughing ahead into the thousands.

“So, those folks can’t rescue us until we get the numbers back down again,” he said.

Covid in schools

Professor Killeen said that the kitchen sink needs to be thrown at intervening in the spread of Covid-19 in schools.

“We’ve never had an admission that schools basically have driven this fourth wave and then we’re still super slow. Contact tracing has not been returned to schools. We're only just talking about masks in primary schools now. It’s all too obsessed with optics, appearances, political spin and it’s not about solving the problem which is already bad enough,” he said.

He said that the idea that schools might close or that kids' activities might be constrained while the pubs remain open “just seems all wrong”.

“If schools are a priority we need to just cut out all the fibs and replace spin with actual interventions, HEPA filters, daily rapid antigen testing of close contacts, just throw the absolute kitchen sink at it and make those an absolute priority and then close everything else that’s not essential, starting with nightclubs, pubs and restaurants,” he said.

He said that since starting in UCC, he has met five students face-to-face, often at a distance, while “the pubs are packed”.

“All the things that the responsible people are trying to do just get blown away and that’s a failure to make decisions, it’s a failure to make priorities, it’s populism, it’s trying to keep everybody happy,” he said.

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