Irish immunologist slams UK government's response to coronavirus outbreak

Irish immunologist slams UK government's response to coronavirus outbreak

A LEADING Irish immunologist has criticised Britain's response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Prof. Luke O'Neill, of Trinity College Dublin, said he was "shocked" by the UK's approach to controlling the spread of the virus, particularly given how quickly - in contrast - Ireland closed down public spaces and schools while Britain paused.

"I've got lots of scientist collaborators [in the UK] and their jaws are dropping ... twice the death rate of Ireland?

"It could be population density, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

"The only explanation at the moment has to be shutting down things quickly.

"The UK delayed, and that could be disastrous."

Prof. O'Neill said that the Irish government's swift decisions to close schools and pubs was a key factor in preventing asymptomatic infection, and keeping Ireland's outbreak at a relatively manageable level so far.

Ireland closed its schools on March 12, just three days before cancelling all St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The UK didn't follow suit until March 20.

Irish pubs were also closed five days before the UK, despite Britain having a higher proportion of Covid-19 cases at the time, and infamously, Cheltenham Festival was allowed to go ahead, which saw 250,000 people flock to a single racecourse, undoubtedly accelerating the spread of the virus.

Despite this though, some aren't convinced that early action caused a lower mortality rate in Ireland.

Prof. Keith Neal of the University of Nottingham argues that a higher number of international travellers put the UK at a distinct disadvantage.

"The most likely explanation is we got Covid-19 much earlier than Ireland," he said.

"The risk of introduction is related to the number of travellers coming back with an infection.

"Although Ireland may have the same number of international travellers per head of population, your risk of first introduction is related to the actual number of travellers."