Doctors’ letter calls for new strategy to ‘co-exist’ with Covid-19

Former FF minister among doctors who say Ireland is ‘lurching from crisis to crisis’

Shoppers walk past Covid signs in Celbridge, Co Kildare. Photograph: Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin

Shoppers walk past Covid signs in Celbridge, Co Kildare. Photograph: Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin

 

A former Fianna Fáil minister is among a group of Irish doctors calling on the Government its change its pandemic strategy to “co-existing” with Covid-19.

GP and ex-Donegal TD Jim McDaid is one of 15 signatories to a letter to Government that proposes a “proportionate de-escalation of the current exclusive focus on Covid-19 to the exclusion of all other health and wellbeing needs of our Irish society”.

Lockdown measures have little impact on the disease, according to the letter, sent to the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Health.

The frontline doctors in the group say they feel more confident about managing the disease now and believe “we can effectively co-exist with the virus”. They say current “unilaterally enforced national strategy” has not evolved in step with improve scientific understanding since the spring.

“We are in effect managing this as a ‘crisis’, from day to day, level to level - as though it were March 2020 when the actual crisis was present,” according to the letter.

Other signatories include surgeon Martin Feeley, who resigned as clinical director of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group last month after criticising the country’s approach to tackling the virus; one-time contraception campaigner Dr Andrew Rynne, who spoke at an anti-lockdown and anti-mask march in Dublin earlier this month; and retired GP and Aontú councillor in Derry, Dr Anne McCloskey, who has compared using masks to stop the spread of the virus to “using a sheep fence to keep out mosquitoes”.

According to the letter, engagement from all sectors of society last spring allowed us to “flatten the curve and buy time” but understanding of Covid-19 has “evolved greatly” since then.

Today, the situation is “completely different” as there is evidence for a “significant degree of established community immunity” to the virus, the authors state.

According to the signatories, multiple published papers show “lockdown measures have little impact on the morbidity and mortality impact of Covid-19”. However, they say, current strategy in Ireland seems “oblivious” to the enormous burden of cancer and other diseases and the fact that those disproportionately affected are the most vulnerable in society.

In criticising the “questionable accuracy” of testing methods, the letter claims only a “fraction” of daily reported cases are “clinically significant in terms of transmissibility or impact”.

Citing a recent paper by Prof John Ioannidis of Stanford University, the letter claims the infection fatality rate of Covid-19 is approximately 0.23-0.27 per cent, and only 0.05 per cent in people aged under 70 years.

“Given this massive body of new evidence, we as doctors most strongly request that this discussion is opened up to a wider range of medical and scientific expert opinions.”

The authors say Ireland should be “leveraging our unique Irish societal characteristics, to enable a more focused and intensive protection strategy for those who need it most”.

“As a matter of urgency, we need to have this discussion for Ireland - openly and transparently. We desperately need to stop lurching from crisis to crisis, with every daily report of new PCR [polymerise chain reaction] positive ‘cases.’”

A separate letter has been sent by 10 doctors to Government ministers calling for an urgent review of the National Public Health Emergency Team and the introduction of a policy of “focused protection” or “targeting resources towards the vulnerable, as opposed to dissipating resources upon the entire population”. Four of these doctors also signed the first letter.

The signatories to this letter say “the development of some degree of herd or ‘natural’ immunity amongst members of the population, is an inevitability”.

The head of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, last week described the idea of deliberately allowing Covid-19 to spread in the hope of achieving herd immunity as unethical and problematic.