Ireland will soon decide on more coronavirus restrictions, academic says

Prof Liam Glynn says whether to go for more severe restrictions is the ‘million dollar question’

Liz Connor and her daughters Ellen (8) and Grace (6) wear protective facemasks as they go for a walk to celebrate Mother’s Day in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Liz Connor and her daughters Ellen (8) and Grace (6) wear protective facemasks as they go for a walk to celebrate Mother’s Day in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Ireland will have to make a decision on moving to a more restrictive stage of lockdown in coming days given rising cases of coronavirus, according to Prof Liam Glynn of the University of Limerick (UL).

This includes cocooning older people and those vulnerable to the virus because of pre-existing conditions.

The moves are critical to sending a message “we need to get really serious about this now, because this is coming”, he believed. On whether to proceed to lockdown, where only essential services are allowed to continue operations, was the million dollar question, he said.

It is further complicated because it will be a week to 10 days before it is known whether effective and necessary shutdown measures already in place are flattening the curve of cases, added the UL professor of general practice.

“The risk is if we wait until then, it could be a problem,” he said. He had huge sympathy for those who have to make that national decision, who were very bright people and handling the crisis very well.

His feeling was “they are not going to wait 10 days to make this decision”. There had been big increases in recent days because of increased testing, while a lot had not got their results and many were waiting to be tested – though capacity for testing was being increased more and more.

Appropriate distancing

On the issue of appropriate social distancing, Prof Glynn said it was not a yes/no scenario, it involved a massive spectrum of behaviour. “We need most people to be on the hard end of that. We definitely need to be cocooning our elderly and vulnerable people”.

A great many of those had already taken the decision themselves to self-isolate, he noted. In his opinion, there should be lockdown at least for the most vulnerable in society combined with more restrictions on the rest of the population. “Some groups are still not taking the action they should be,” he said.

By keeping within family units in the home, the virus may be circulating but not going anywhere, explained Prof Glynn, who also runs a GP practice in west Clare, where the coronavirus “storm” was already very evident in the community.

On the low Covid-19 death rate in Ireland compared to other countries, he said it was a welcome difference but it was important not to read too much into it at this point as “there are really wide confidence intervals on it . . . It will take time to indicate if we are an outlier.”

Prof Glynn stressed: “The big bold steps taken [up to now] by Government will have an effect, the question is ‘How much?’”

#CovidWatch

With colleague Dr Mike O’Callaghan, he has been doing daily analysis on Irish cases through #CovidWatch on twitter and issuing short public health messages.

On the latest case numbers, they tweeted (on Sunday): “Many tests and test results still outstanding so too early to tell if we have #FlattenTheCurve. On mother’s day (Big shout out to all mums in the frontline!) and every day #SocialDistancing will saves.”

On Saturday, they remarked: “Cases increasing (due to more testing) but our deaths very low SO FAR. #socialdistancing will save lives in your community...act now!”

Meanwhile leading immunologist Prof Luke O’Neill, who is based in Trinity College Dublin, underlined at the weekend the need to confine people in their homes. “Latest science says you HAVE to stay home. 60 per cent of infections now estimated from people with NO symptoms. 1 in 3 people have no symptoms but are infectious. It hasn’t hit yours lungs but it’s in your throat u cough or simply breath it out. Stay home,” he tweeted.