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Image / Editorial

‘Zero-Covid island’: Scientists say eradication of Covid-19 is the best way forward


by Shayna Sappington
15th Jul 2020
‘Zero-Covid island’: Scientists say eradication of Covid-19 is the best way forward

Public health experts say a second wave is imminent and we should increase precautions to reach zero cases in Ireland


In a recent statement, a group of scientists have called on the government to “crush” Covid-19 and aim towards reopening only after eradication measures have been enforced.

Experts laid out a plan, similar to that of New Zealand’s, for Ireland to become a “zero-Covid island”.

This plan provides a strategic way to cut down cases and lower contact numbers of those infected with the virus via mandatory restrictions and travel regulations.

Mandatory restrictions

Face masks should be worn in outdoor crowds and indoor public spaces, they said, in order to lower the contact rate.

Rather than reinforcing lockdown for the whole State, communities should be separated into “green zones” and those of higher risk.

In areas where there is continued community transmission of the virus, mandatory lockdown measures should be enforced, while in “green zones”, where there are no reported cases, restrictions should be relaxed.

Their statement comes after an open letter penned last month, where the group called on the government to “properly regulate travel”.

Travel regulations

For all travellers entering the country, mandatory two-week isolation and serial testing needs to be enforced, they said.

They also recommended that safe travel bridges only be established with countries that have lower case numbers and a similar strategy in place.

“We need to establish safe travel bridges to other countries that have similar zero-Covid strategies, to extend our shared green zone strategy through international cooperation,” experts said.

Yesterday, although there were no new deaths, 32 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported, the highest single daily figure since June 13. 

Over the past five days, there have been over 100 additional cases reported, an increasing figure that can be attributed to the reopening of the economy, they said.

A second wave

The group said a second wave was imminent and we should be following the above mentioned measures to curb it.

“We are now facing the strong likelihood of an imminent second wave. There is a better alternative,” they said.

“Relaxing restrictions before we get to a zero-Covid island risks a second wave, as seen in Israel, Serbia, Australia and Japan.

“We can instead choose to follow New Zealand, to control Covid-19, drive it to zero, and open back up. It’s really our choice.”

The scientists also warned that a vaccine for Covid-19 could not be guaranteed and that even if it was, it could take years for it to become widely available in sufficient quantities.

 “A zero-Covid island is our only viable exit strategy from the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic, which may otherwise last for years or indefinitely,” they said.

The letter was signed by a large group of health experts, including Prof Patrick Cunningham, former chief scientific advisor to the government, Prof Sam McConkey, president of the Infectious Disease Society of Ireland, professor of public health Anthony Staines of DCU, infectious diseases ecologist Prof Gerard Killeen of UCC, immunologist Dr Tomás Ryan of TCD and Prof Michael Baker, a professor of public health in New Zealand.

 

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