Let coronavirus spread through under-60 population, Dáil committee told

Swedish epidemiologist advises against pinning hopes on imminent advent of vaccine

Sweden's former chief epidemiologist Dr Johan Giesecke has told the Dáil’s Covid-19 committee that coronavirus should be let spread amongst people below 60 in a controlled way. Video: Oireachtas TV

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Coronavirus should be let spread amongst people below 60 in a controlled way, the Dáil’s Covid-19 committee has been told.

Sweden’s former chief epidemiologist Dr Johan Giesecke recommends that the virus be let spread through the population alongside a programme that concentrates on the “old and frail” and that frequently tests staff and residents in care homes.

Mr Giesecke has also told the Government not to build its Covid-19 strategy around the imminent advent of a vaccine, stating: “We might have to wait for it and it may not be very effective in those who need it most.”

Furthermore, Ireland should also stop aiming for Covid-free status or even for levels as low as in July at the end of lockdown, the president of the Irish Society of Clinical Microbiology, Kirsten Schaffer, is to tell the committee.

The “economic and social impact would be devastating”, she says in an opening statement.

Addressing the committee on Wednesday morning, Dr Johan Giesecke has said his country’s “soft lockdown” worked because the country trusted its people.

Dr Giesecke said “people are not stupid” and will respond if told how to protect themselves.

He said schools must remain open and he pointed out that there was no difference between infections among schoolchildren in Sweden, where schools were kept open, and in neighbouring Finland which closed its schools.

Dr Giesecke said Covid-19 constituted a threat to democracy in many countries with some politicians acquiring extra powers that they might not relinquish.

A further 334 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported on Tuesday night to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), 174 of them in Dublin.

This brings to 33,444 the total number of cases linked to the virus in the Republic.

No new deaths were reported, leaving the total number of deaths at 1,792.

Of the new cases, 34 were located in Cork and on Tuesday, Government sources reported growing political concern about the rising cases in the county.

Passengers

It has also emerged that only a quarter of incoming passengers into Ireland have been contacted by a new service, which is intended to check compliance with requirements to quarantine for 14 days.

Róisin Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, has also expressed concern about the risk of coronavirus spread following disclosure that the vast majority of 370,000 passengers who arrived into Ireland since August came from non-Green list countries.

A mandatory electronic passenger locator form was introduced on August 26th around the same time as a new call centre was established to follow up on passengers. In response to a parliamentary question, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told Ms Shortall that in its first week of operation of this service – when 59,605 people arrived in through airports – 70,000 SMS messages were sent out and 13,000 calls were made to a “sample” of all incoming passengers.

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