The World Health Organisation’s Covid envoy, Dr David Nabarro, has said that he would not travel even though he has been vaccinated.
“This virus is beastly,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
If he did have to travel he would still be very cautious, he would wear a mask and observe social distancing, he added. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Dr Nabarro said he was uncomfortable to see large crowds at sporting events where it appeared someone had “blown a whistle” and said that it was acceptable to socialise “like normal”.
Who decided that? That is not good public health.
It was too early to have a complete lifting of restrictions especially as cases were continuing to rise. It was a balance between two extremes where there were restrictions and low incident rates or freedom and higher incident rates. “We don’t know enough about the virus yet to make decisions like that. This virus is still too full of surprises.”
Dr Nabarro said that the high levels of “mixing” of people when the virus was still being transmitted was going to lead to “a huge increase” in cases, he warned.
One in ten who contracted Covid would end up with “a nasty long illness”, he said.
“We need to be very aware that letting go (of restrictions) is going to lead to a huge increase in cases which will have an impact on neighbouring countries.”
Dr Nabarro said he would plead with political leaders to talk to each other as there was a need for collective decisions. “No country is an island.”
This was the most dangerous time, he said. “This virus isn’t going away. I don’t see any reason for saying let’s get back to normal.”
The EU was right to come up with a travel system, but travel should be for essential purposes only, he said. The situation remained “incredibly uncertain” with variants emerging and “it could happen” that one would not respond to the vaccine.
However, he anticipated that over time “we will be able to calm down.”
Ireland was fortunate to have a very good public health system, he said.
Dr Nabarro said that WHO guidance was that the vulnerable should be completely vaccinated as early as possible, even with a different second vaccine if necessary. With regard to indoor dining, he said he would not like to see discrimination where people who were not vaccinated would not be allowed enter premises.
“I do not like discrimination about vaccine status, but I’m not running a business or a government. I understand that my ethical position is not tenable. There is no perfect solution, there are wrinkles.