‘Slight bias’ in data on Covid-19 outdoor transmission, prof says

Professor Liam Fanning said he had been surprised by the data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre
‘Slight bias’ in data on Covid-19 outdoor transmission, prof says

Vivienne Clarke

There is likely a “slight bias” in new data indicating that just one case of Covid-19 in every thousand is traced to outdoor transmission, according to a professor of immunovirology.

University College Cork’s Professor Liam Fanning said he had been surprised by the data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) showing that 0.1 per cent of the State’s total confirmed cases had been linked to outdoor transmission.

Prof Fanning told Newstalk Breakfast that while there was an obvious difference between indoor and outdoor transmission, he thought there could be a slight bias in the data and that the figures were on the lower limit.

He warned that face-to-face outdoor meetings still carried a risk, as “face-on chatting” meant that if a person was infectious they could still spread the virus.

Side-by-side was better as had been reported during the Spanish influenza and the message remained the same, he said.

Outdoor dining

However, Prof Fanning nonetheless said the data was reassuring and that financial supports to encourage outdoor dining should be “much higher” so that Ireland could become an outdoor dining society.

“The 0.1 per cent [of cases linked to outdoor transmission] is probably the lower limit of what it could go to, I imagine that is somewhere between that and one per cent, but it's still extremely good news,” he said.

Of the 232,164 cases of Covid-19 recorded in the State up to March 24th this year, 262 were as a result of outdoor transmission, representing 0.1 per cent of the total.

However, the figures come as 20 per cent of all cases in the State result from community transmission where the source of the infection is not known.

There were 42 outbreaks associated with outdoor gatherings, with one community outbreak accounting for seven cases, according to the data from the HPSC.

There were 21 outbreaks on construction sites with 124 cases, and 20 outbreaks associated with sporting activities and fitness in which there were 131 cases.

The relatively low numbers of cases resulting from outdoor transmission in the Republic are mirrored in international studies.

Public health experts have cautioned that outdoor gatherings must be accompanied by proper risk management.

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