Government Ministers should be vaccinated, says virologist

As a decision maker, Taoiseach should be kept safe, says Dr Cillian de Gascun

Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of UCD national virus reference laboratory. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of UCD national virus reference laboratory. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Virologist Dr Cillian de Gascun has said that the Cabinet should be vaccinated as they are key workers and decision makers.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show he said that the Cabinet were important decision makers in the middle of a pandemic.

Dr de Gascun was responding to a question about whether Taoiseach Micheál Martin should be vaccinated if he goes to Washington DC for St Patrick’s Day.

As a decision maker the Taoiseach should be kept safe, he added.

No decision has been made yet on whether Taoiseach Micheál Martin will travel to Washington DC, to meet US president Joe Biden for St Patrick’s Day, officials said last week.

They said consideration of all possibilities, including a virtual event, was continuing.

A Government spokesman said the decision would be based on public-health advice, in both Ireland and the United States.

Mandatory quarantine

Infectious diseases expert Professor Paddy Mallon has said that if the mandatory quarantine measures were implemented properly then that would go a “significant” way towards correcting “the mistakes of the past”.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he also said there needed to be a level of “bio security” at the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Travel and the new variants of the virus were the key issues in stopping the transmission of Covid-19, he added.

New Covid-19 restrictions targeted at holidaymakers, including increased fines for those leaving and mandatory hotel quarantine when they return from some destinations, are likely to be part of the Government’s plans to tighten external controls as the country prepares to slowly reopen.

Paddy Mallon, consultant in Infectious Diseases in at St. Monicas ward on the Nutley Wing for Covid patients at St Vincents University Hospital. Photograph: Alan Betson
Paddy Mallon, consultant in Infectious Diseases in at St. Monicas ward on the Nutley Wing for Covid patients at St Vincents University Hospital. Photograph: Alan Betson

Ministers and officials said on Tuesday that the Government intended to introduce legislation next week which would provide for mandatory quarantine in hotels for incoming travellers, a measure the Government spokesman said could be extended to returning holidaymakers.

Government figures showed that of the 2,000 travellers coming into the country every day over the last two weeks, two-thirds were coming from holiday destinations, the spokesman said.

Prof Mallon said that while the “worst” of the third wave of the virus might be over, there was still a long way to go. “We are far from seeing the end of the third wave.”

There may have been a reduction in cases in recent days and overall numbers may be reducing, but there were still 175 people in intensive care and “there’s still an awful lot of very sick people on the wards,” said Prof Mallon.

Any actions taken needed to be on the basis of learning from past mistakes, he said. “We can only open up if cases remain low.” There needed to be a recognition that travel was “a big part of that”.

Ireland was facing “fundamental choices”, he said.

Mandatory quarantine measures were public health initiatives, but they would only work if they were implemented properly.

‘Hit squads’

Public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally has called for public health “hit squads” to be mobilised to respond to any local clusters of Covid-19 that may occur.

The country’s Covid-19 strategy should be about dealing with the virus, not “reopening things” he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show.

Dr Scally said he did not like “the notion” of “living with the virus” – there wasn’t talk about living with other diseases such as TB, diphtheria or measles.

“I would really love to see a strategy which talks about beating Covid, getting to Zero Covid, no Covid, or suppression of Covid. Those are the sort of things that appeal to me.”

One of the weaknesses across both the UK and Ireland had been a lack of such strategies, with the focus instead on “plans to get us out of lockdowns,” he said.

There was now a “great opportunity” to put in place a plan for the next six to 12 months and “some really good thinking” was now required to navigate through the next difficult period, he said.

“We need to be able to mobilise and send in hit squads to deal with this virus anytime we get cases and clusters popping up. But to do that is no mean task, we’ve had a year now to mobilise public health resources at a local level.”

Public health doctors were extraordinarily important, he said and needed to be “brought into the game” and provided with the necessary powers and resources.

“You have to get your case numbers down in your own place and country and you must stop the variants coming in. You have to do the two things, doing one is not enough.”

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