Increased Covid-19 testing is needed before restrictions can be eased as only one in 10 cases is being identified at present, an Immunology expert has said.
Paul Moynagh’s comments come as healthcare representatives voiced concern about lifting measures designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The professor of Immunology at Maynooth University said if restrictions were lifted without increasing the level of testing then it was inevitable that cases of the virus would continue to increase.
“I believe that we’re only picking up one in ten cases, we need to address that,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
State health officials announced on Wednesday evening a further 49 coronavirus-related deaths and 631 new cases. This brought the death toll to 769 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the State and the total number of cases to 16,671.
The Department of Health’s National Public Health Emergency Team said in addition there was a total of 113 “probable or suspected” coronavirus-related deaths including 102 in nursing homes.
Professor of general practice at the University of Limerick Liam Glynn, who has been tracking he rate of infection of Covid-19, has also advised against the immediate lifting of restrictions.
“I think we can certainly be planning it at this point,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“The thing to be clear about though is this is the first wave of Covid-19 and we probably have achieved something like 10 per cent immunity in the population with this particular wave.
“But as night follows day, if we release all restrictions tomorrow we will get another significant surge in Covid-19 infections – that’s the thing everybody’s got to bear in mind,” said Dr Glynn, who is also a GP.
“We can start to plan easing restrictions ... it’s like a wartime situation. We have to know ourselves and we have to know our enemy – and we get this knowledge from testing.
President of the Irish College of General Practitioners Dr Mary Favier also cautioned that any lifting of restrictions should be gradual, but in the meantime anyone who is unwell should call their GP.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, Dr Favier said any changes in testing criteria should not change whether people visit their GP or not.
“We’re here, we have the capacity, we can see you.”
GPs are concerned that patients with conditions such as chest pains, stroke, breast lumps are not attending their GP because of their fear of contracting Covid-19, Dr Favier said.
Dr Favier said she had not had to refer a patient to have a breast lump checked in some time, nor had she seen any patients suffering the symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke.
“I haven’t seen a breast lump or people with chest pains, I had a man who was afraid to ring despite stroke symptoms.
“Where have all the other illnesses gone?”
Older patients who are cocooning should still call their GP if they feel unwell, she said.