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Government restrictions | 'We...
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Government restrictions | 'We can't be waiting to be drowned by the next wave'

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

19:53 18 Aug 2020

Professor of Health Systems at DCU - Anthony Staines - joined us to discuss the changes to Government restrictions in regard to COVID-19.

Professor Staines painted a stark picture of the situation with regard to the virus in Ireland, not only in sport but in society at large.

"A couple of things have become clear, we had 190 cases of COVID today and 200 on Saturday. These are numbers that we haven't seen for several months. So what the Government has been doing in this 'living with the virus' strategy has failed and it is time to do something else.

"Eamon Ryan and Stephen Donnelly are quite right to say that if we don't get on top of this briskly then we could have hundreds and hundreds of cases a day.

"Hopefully, because we have got better at treating it and there hopefully won't be so many people severely ill [...] but the hit to the economy will be horrific. There is a lot of information that says what hits the economy is not so much the restrictions, or rules on movement, but the virus itself because it changes how people behave.

"People don't go out as much, they spend less money and less time in public spaces."

Government restrictions

Professor Staines implored more of a concrete plan from the Government instead of going to and fro with tightening and restraining restrictions; that "we are now chasing behind the virus and we need to get in front of it."

The method that he suggests involves getting

"Reduce the amount of movement in the country. We have a paper that talks about 'green zones', where that is a county. Take Roscommon as a county; it is a small county with a small amount of cases. It wouldn't take much to reduce cases to zero there, and keep them there.

"That would mean that people from Roscommon could start opening up a bit but people from outside Roscommon couldn't come in. As more and more counties get green, then the area that you can move around in freely can get bigger and bigger.

"We reckon if we get this right, we can be back to county GAA matches by November. We could be back to rugby matches and racing by the new year. Much of the rest of the economy would come along with that.

"We need a plan that says we are going somewhere, not one that says we have a serious problem and we're reacting."

Sport & government restrictions

As it pertains to sport, Staines was stark in his call for personal and collective responsibility: "[there] is nothing magic about what you're doing - it doesn't matter if you're training with 15 or 30 of you."

Referencing his own experience with playing rugby and the recent experiences of Aberdeen FC, Staines maintains that the virus will continue to spread if close contact training is permitted.

"If you're training, you have to stay apart as much as possible. I used to play rugby and know the difficulties in staying apart - other sports it is easier. There may be sports that you just can't do for a while and I suspect rugby may be one of them.

"Look into your own heart: what are the risks? Part of the concern is that people who are exercising are breathing hard, and we know that strong breathing produces a lot more droplets. They are what seems to be infectious."

Professor Staines recommending training outdoors, keeping numbers down and to go home and shower straight away.

"What makes sense? There is nothing magic about 15, 10 or 30.

"NPHET has said 15 and that is not unreasonable, but each sport is going to have to work this out for themselves and come back and say 'this is what works for us.'"

Staines was especially critical of the travel restrictions currently in place, which he appears to believe will continue to reproduce the virus while it is allowed to continue as is.

"We are moving to a place where everyone needs to take higher levels of personal responsibility - wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

"We have a quarantine system for travellers coming into Ireland and, candidly, it is a joke. You give your name, you are supposed to isolate yourself and nobody seems to be following up.

"One of the people that gave evidence to the Oireachtas committee on Thursday put it very clearly. He said that if you want to bring this down, there is no room for fudging. You have to do all of these things and you have to do them now.

"You also have to convince people that it is worth it; that these things are taking us somewhere and we're not just waiting to be drowned by the next wave or the one after that.

"We are going to be waiting until next June or July for a vaccine, and we could be waiting a lot longer than that."

You can listen to the podcast with Anthony Staines

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