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'A Zero-Covid Island is our only viable exit strategy' - Experts warn of 'strong likelihood of imminent second wave' in open letter

The experts include DCU's Prof Anthony Staines and infectious disease consultant Sam McConkey

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Professor Anthony Staines

Professor Anthony Staines

Professor Anthony Staines

Ireland is facing a strong likelihood of a second Covid-19 wave, a group of Irish experts have warned.

They are calling for a plan for a Zero-Covid island.

The experts include DCU’s Prof Anthony Staines, infectious disease consultant Sam McConkey and GP Dr Maitiu O Tuathail.

In an open letter they say:

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Prof Samuel McConkey

Prof Samuel McConkey

Prof Samuel McConkey

“Eliminating SARS-CoV2 would have immense benefits for us all. It would open up our country and start the recovery of our economy. Jobs and confidence would recover, as has happened in other countries. Schools and childcare could fully reopen safely. Normal sports, music, arts, health care, and community events could start up again. We would avoid many people getting sick.

“Right now, however, the number of new COVID19 cases is rising steadily across Ireland, especially in younger people, who are more likely to silently carry and transmit the virus. We are now facing the strong likelihood of an imminent second wave.

"There is a better alternative. The aim of Zero COVID Island is to reduce COVID incidence across the Island of Ireland to zero, so that we can safely open up as much of our society and economy as possible.

"Relaxing restrictions before we get to a Zero-COVID island risks a second wave, as seen in Israel, Serbia, Australia and Japan. Unless we take immediate and decisive action, we will pay a very heavy price, with many people getting sick, being admitted to ICU and dying. Many businesses will fold, because a second wave will bring a second dip in activity, whether from government policy, or customer fears, which will extend their losses well into 2021.

"Without a Zero-COVID island, the best outcome we can hope for is that the current state of affairs will continue, perhaps for years. Persistent and justified fear of COVID19 risk will cripple our society and destroy businesses and jobs, just as badly as the lockdown did, if not more so. There is no guarantee that an effective vaccine will be developed, though there is some reason for hope. Even if an effective vaccine is developed, it may take a number of years to become widely available in sufficient quantities.

"We need a strategic decision at government level to deliberately push towards a Zero-COVID island, with comprehensive community support.

"We need a Green Zone strategy with local relaxation of restrictions, wherever there is no community transmission, to allow return to near normal conditions in those areas.

"In those areas where community transmission continues we need to patiently maintain and enhance the hygiene, social distancing and restrictions that have taken us so far already.

"We need to normalise and legally enforce wearing masks, indoors in public spaces and outdoors in crowds. This will need political and professional leadership.

"Find, trace, track, isolate, and support cases, and close contacts.

"We need proper regulation of travel and associated isolation, supplemented with repeated serial testing before release. We need to establish safe travel bridges to other countries or jurisdictions that have similar Zero-COVID strategies, to extend our shared green zone strategy through international cooperation.

"Unless we take action, at best we will have reduced economic activity and continuing disruption to our lives because of social distancing, and at worst a second surge of infections. Israel shows us how bad this can get. We can instead choose to follow New Zealand, to control COVID19, drive it to zero, and open back up. It’s really our choice.

"A Zero-COVID Island is our only viable exit strategy from the ongoing COVID19 epidemic, which may otherwise last for years or indefinitely.“

Signatories include :

Dr. Claire Buckley

Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, University College Cork

Prof. Patrick Cunningham

Professor of Animal Genetics, Trinity College Dublin

Former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Irish Government (2007)


Prof. Patricia Kearney

Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University College Cork


Prof. Gerry Killeen

AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences and Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork


Prof. Sam McConkey

Associate Professor and Head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons

President of the Infectious Disease Society of Ireland


Prof. David McConnell

Fellow Emeritus in Genetics, Trinity College Dublin

Pro-Chancellor of the University of Dublin


Dr. Maitiú Ó Tuathail

General Practitioner

Past President, National Association of GPs


Prof. Ivan Perry

Professor of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork


Dr. Tomás Ryan

Associate Professor, School of Biochemistry and Immunology and Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College

Prof. Anthony Staines,

Professor of Health Systems, School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health, Dublin

Prof. Gabriel Scally

Honorary Professor of Public Health, University of Bristol, UK

President of Epidemiology & Public Health section, Royal


Prof. Martin McKee

Professor of European Public Health, London School of Hygiene


Prof. Michael Baker

Professor of Public Health; Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand

Co-Director, He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme; Director, Health Environment Infection Research


Dr. Amanda Kvalsvig

Senior Research Fellow, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand

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