Ireland is being presented with a “one-off opportunity” to suppress Covid-19 for the long-term amid concurrent lockdowns in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, according to the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG).
The group of scientists and researchers — including DCU’s Prof Anthony Staines, TCD’s Dr Tomás Ryan and UCC’s Prof Gerry Killeen — said Ireland faces recurring and avoidable lockdowns throughout the new year unless a new strategy to suppress the virus is taken.
It warned the country is potentially entering “its deepest crisis to date” in the pandemic but could suppress the virus within six to eight weeks, before reopening society at Level 1 of Covid-19 restrictions.
“Widespread vaccination in Ireland is likely to begin in late summer 2021, and will take months to complete. This leaves time for multiple avoidable lockdowns,” the group said.
“Ireland as a whole is in a strong position to achieve aggressive suppression because Northern Ireland has initiated a hard six-week lockdown from December 26th.
“We have a one-off opportunity to make the island an epidemiological unit, and to take control of our situation in this continuing pandemic.
“We can suppress the virus and keep Ireland at Level 1 until widespread vaccination is achieved.”
This does suggest that summer 2021 is going to be a write-off for tourism and hospitality.
We can make this the #LastLockdown if we want@ISAGCOVID19 https://t.co/RCtBK7cnwz
— Anthony Staines says WASH YOUR HANDS! WEAR A MASK! (@astaines) December 31, 2020
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The group is urging the Government to implement a national strategy of elimination of the virus throughout the months of January and February, laying out a strategy for a “stable reopening” of society in the spring of 2021.
“It is clear that we are facing a national emergency: rapidly rising SARS-CoV-2 infections, and the emergence of a new variant with enhanced transmissibility, mean that immediate action is necessary to mitigate against a surge of infections,” it said.
“We cannot expect to manage the most severe situation to date with our weakest response to date,” the group added.