IRELAND IS “very close” to emulating New Zealand in eliminating coronavirus from its shores.
That’s according to Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems at Dublin City University, who singled out Ireland as one of several countries to have made significant progress in squashing the virus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week announced New Zealand has no active cases of Covid-19 for the first since the pandemic began.
The government also lifted all of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions previously in place.
Speaking to Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One, Professor Staines suggested Ireland could be among the next few countries to follow suit.
"Greece has managed to do this to a very substantial extent [crush the virus], Luxembourg has nearly done it, Austria has nearly done it, Iceland has almost certainly done it, Finland has almost certainly done it, and Norway has almost done it," he said.
"So, we're actually very close. There's a group of European countries, we're one of them, that are very close to zero, and most of the others have said explicitly we want to get to zero. Now we haven't said that."
Professor Staines was eager to warn, however, that small isolated outbreaks could still occur even after the virus is sufficiently suppressed.
He said: "We will be reporting new cases for some time to come, because it isn't perfect, but it reduces it from a major crisis that cuts right across our economy, to an important but manageable public health issue.
"If we're having four or five cases a day, we can bring that number down and we can keep it down.
"We saw in South Korea, they brought the cases down to zero for about a month. There was a single outbreak, which has now spread to about 200 cases, but they've now brought those numbers down again.
"So, this is a process, it isn't a wave of the magic wand and we go to zero. This is a process that we can do, and the steps are affordable."
He went on to call for an all-Ireland approach to dealing with coronavirus, adding that a prolonged lockdown was not necessary in these circumstances.
"We are moving out of lockdown, we are opening up our economy, and we now say we are trying to get to zero," he said.
"We do things like wear masks, test people at the airports, we do things like an aggressive test and trace regime, and we go through the lockdown from where we are today. And we make decisions about how we move out.
"We've had an emergency response to a crisis, and that was the right thing to do, I'm not criticising that.
"But now is the time to sit down and look at those measures and think 'well, actually this one is very important', but 'this one is less important'."