Ireland could be rid of Covid-19 ‘within months’, says virus expert - but only with 'tighter restrictions'

Ireland could be rid of Covid-19 ‘within months’, says virus expert - but only with 'tighter restrictions'

IRELAND COULD be free from Covid-19 by the end of the summer – but stricter restrictions will be needed to stamp out any trace of the virus. 

The introduction of a few additional measures could help rid Ireland of coronavirus entirely, according to new modelling analyses from Professor Gerry Killeen. 

However, the Irish virus expert, who serves as AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology at University College Cork, believes repeated cycles of imposing, lifting and re-imposing restrictions would be “asking for trouble”. 

“Eliminating the virus within months would require only a modest amount of additional effort, compared to merely suppressing the epidemic and allowing it to persist for years, decades or even indefinitely,"” he said. 

“As in any competitive sport, playing a long, drawn-out defensive game against an unpredictable, fast-moving, adaptable and unrelenting opponent is asking for trouble.” 

Prof Killeen and his colleagues at UCC recently published a study examining models of Covid-19 transmission and containment in Ireland. 

The findings showed that Ireland’s current rate of reduction in the number of cases of Covid-19 could lead to zero cases and an exit from lockdown entirely by the end of the summer. 

In contrast, repeated cycles in and out of lockdown until the epidemic hopefully dies out through herd immunity would not only stretch the entire process out by several years but would lead to a greater cost to the economy. 

“It’s likely that COVID-19 could establish itself as a permanent disease with unpredictable waves every few years,” Prof Killeen said. 

“On the economic front, incomplete suppression of the epidemic means extending the damage over years rather than months, asking business to spend more time operating under restrictions that push them into the red.” 

The findings come after a weekend in which one doctor predicted Ireland's second wave was a matter of weeks away after people flooded the streets of Dublin following the reopening of pubs in the city.