EFFICIENT contract tracing, increased testing and the use of new technology needs to be introduced before Covid-19 restrictions can be reduced, according to a local health specialist.
Professor Liam Glynn said Ireland requires a really strong testing capability with a quick turnaround and contract tracing to accurately track what is happening when a restriction is changed.
“If lifting a restriction does cause a spike, we must be able to reintroduce it, particularly in certain geographic areas, hot spots or particular groups of people.
“This has to be done in a safe a manner as possible so vulnerable people will have to stay cocooned. The people who can be let out will be those at lowest risk.
“We need an ongoing monitoring system so we can actively check if the easing of restrictions is causing an upsurge.
“It is all to play for still,” he said.
The Professor of General Practice at the Graduate Entry Medical, University of Limerick is producing a daily breakdown of Covid-19 cases and deaths in several countries with Dr Michael O’Callaghan, a Bruff GP who is trained as a software engineer and data analyst.
This initiative is a collaboration between the University of Limerick and the Irish College of General Practitioners.
While face masks will not reduce the risk of the wearer getting Covid-19, the Ballyvaughan-based GP said there is evidence to suggest it reduces the spread of the infection to others.
He pointed out a lot of countries who have introduced compulsory face masks have seen a considerable improvement in the control of the virus.
Professor Glynn pointed out the percentage of confirmed new Covid-19 cases is falling from a daily growth rate of more than 30% in the initial stages to less than 5%.
However, he acknowledged the overall figure of more than 11,000 cases nationwide is high even excluding the cases tested in a German laboratory, which are effectively old cases.
“On the face of it the overall figures are ‘frightening’ and people need to be serious about this pandemic and continue to employ social distancing. Our absolute numbers are still too high and it will not take a lot for us to become overwhelmed.
“I say this knowing how much my colleagues in critical care have done to increase capacity. The question is will it be enough.
“On the other hand, the growth rate is no longer exponential like it was. We need to do more and get the number of new cases down.
Describing the number of deaths as “concerning”, he said every fatality from Covid-19 leaves behind a heartbroken family. Every death is heartbreaking and an enormous price to pay for every family. My condolences go to anyone who has lost a family member.
In an interview with the Clare Champion, he said a lot of important decisions have to be made over the coming weeks about how restrictions can be eased without causing another surge.
He said Ireland’s Covid-19 death rate per million was better than the UK but worse than some countries.