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Strict suggestions Reducing 5km travel limit to 2km and essential worker numbers could halt Covid-19 spread, expert says

"We could reduce the radius around us - we could go from the 5km limit to a 2km limit. And we could ask the Government to engage in things like mass antigen testing, which still hasn't happened in serial testing of healthcare workers.”

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Professor Tomas Ryan  (Screenshot from Oireachtas/TV)

Professor Tomas Ryan (Screenshot from Oireachtas/TV)

Professor Tomas Ryan (Screenshot from Oireachtas/TV)

Further restrictions, including reducing the number of essential workers and the 5km travel limit to 2km, could help to get coronavirus numbers down, one of the country’s top health experts has said. 

Tomás Ryan, an associate professor in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), told Newstalk Breakfast there are too many people leaving their homes to go to work.

"There's still a lot of people going to work, and so we could reduce that by reducing what essential workers are,” he said.

"We could reduce the radius around us - we could go from the 5km limit to a 2km limit. And we could ask the Government to engage in things like mass antigen testing, which still hasn't happened in serial testing of healthcare workers.”

He added: "And I think it's also fair to say that we don't really know how many infections are coming through hospitals and into the communities".

The professor was speaking after Taoiseach Micheál Martin told his parliamentary party that level five restrictions will continue into February as the numbers remain too high.

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin denies the current catastrophic coronavirus situation is the result of his decision to ease restrictions too soon. Photo: Arthur Carron

Taoiseach Micheál Martin denies the current catastrophic coronavirus situation is the result of his decision to ease restrictions too soon. Photo: Arthur Carron

Taoiseach Micheál Martin denies the current catastrophic coronavirus situation is the result of his decision to ease restrictions too soon. Photo: Arthur Carron

"Our behaviours could also be stricter,” Mr Ryan said. “Based on traffic and based on mobility analysis, we're not exactly restricting our movements as much as we did in the first lockdown.”

He also argued that the crucial thing is not about how long we need to be in restrictions, but rather the question needs to be when can we get control of the virus.

“When we get control of the virus, then we can start to open up,” he said, indicating that this would need to see a level of "about 10 cases a day”.

"When you get to that level of virus case number, that's in the zone where our test, trace and isolation infrastructure can manage it,” he stated.

Prof Ryan also suggested that the reason for the high case numbers could be largely down to the "newbie 117 variant - what we call the British variant - which is significantly more transmissible”.

"And now that probably makes up most of the virus population in Ireland, though we don't have perfect surveillance on that yet.”

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will meet later to consider the current situation.

The Cabinet sub committee on Covid-19 is then expected to meet on Monday to finalise plans to extend the current restrictions before Cabinet ministers approve the measures at a meeting on Tuesday.

It is expected the situation will be reviewed again in February but it is not believed the Government will make the decision to reopen the economy substantially before the end of March or early April.

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