IRELAND HAS reported “almost zero” new cases of Covid-19, according to public health officials, with all indicators suggesting the coronavirus is in decline.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that while it would be difficult to entirely eliminate the disease, the government was determined to “go as low as we possibly can”.
He also rebuffed any fears of potential hidden clusters in the wider Irish community.
The meeting saw NPHET discuss the idea of introducing tougher measures on a short-term basis to crush the virus entirely.
However, Dr Holohan and the rest of the team concluded that such measures would not be required.
The chair of the NPHET Irish epidemiological modelling advisory group, Professor Philip Nolan, explained:“The absolutist notion of elimination [of the disease] from the island with no possibility of recurrence or re-emergence is an attractive-sounding strategy but is not practical or implementable.”
“We have almost zero cases occurring day by day. This is an effective strategy and integrates well with other countries in Europe with whom we want to increase our level of exchange and not decrease it.”
“All indicators of the disease are stable or declining at present,” Professor Nolan added.
While Ireland’s reproduction or ‘R’ number, which measures the amount of people someone with the virus would likely infect, stands somewhere between 0.4 and 0.8 he stressed that the country needs to stay vigilant.
Keeping the ‘R’ number below 1 is seen as a crucial step to helping supress and ultimately control the contagion.
“The next two weeks are now critical in limiting transmission, keeping the R-number low and suppressing the virus,” he said.
The positive outlook echoes that of Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems at Dublin City University, who has predicted Ireland may follow New Zealand in eventually becoming free of Covid-19, save for the occasional isolated outbreak.
While government officials remain steadfast in maintaining the current lockdown measures to help beat the virus, NPHET is expected to meet new week to discuss the easing for further restrictions.
This could include an easing of the two-metre social distancing rule as well as the reopening of hairdressers and new measures that would see weddings resume.