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VIRUS FEARS 'We made a mistake, we lifted restrictions too early'

Caution led to six to eight-week timelag in population behaviour


Covid-19 measures on a Dublin Bus

Covid-19 measures on a Dublin Bus

Covid-19 measures on a Dublin Bus

LIFTING coronavirus restrictions too quickly during the summer has been a mistake, according to one of Ireland's top behavourial scientists.

As the country teeters on the brink of a second wave of infections it turns out the authorities were fooled by people's fear of the virus.

"The result of that is we made a mistake, we lifted restrictions and we didn't see any impact for two, three, four weeks and we thought 'this is going really well, we can go a little bit faster'," explained Dr Pete Lunn.

"Actually the restrictions we had lifted were just taking more like six to eight weeks to have an impact because people were slowly getting back to things they are now allowed to do," Dr Lunn, who is part of the behavourial science unit at the Economic and Social Research Institute, told the Sunday World.

He added that the assumption was made by the media and politicians that people wanted to be free of the restrictions as soon as possible.

"Actually, that's not true, they're quite nervous and cautious about it. It might be true of some of them, but most of them it is not true of," he explained.

"The result of that was that we underestimated how much difference lifting the restrictions would have on the spread of the virus because it took people a number of weeks to start socialising again.

"We accelerated the road map and I think the spike we got now is partly as a result of that. I think that's a really important lesson we've got to learn, we need to monitor people's behaviour more closely," he said.

"The sooner we flatten the second curve and come down the other side of it, and let's hope we do it quickly, when we do that it might pay us to be a little more cautious on the way out."

Yesterday the head of the HSE urged the population to "galvanise" young people to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

HSE boss Paul Reid said the country shouldn't criticise the youth of Ireland amid concerns of further restrictions as the number of cases continues to grow.

"Let's not knock, but galvanise them once again."

It emerged during the week that people aged 15 to 34 account for 40 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the past two months, despite accounting for just a quarter of the population.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn and his counterpart in the north, Dr Michael McBride, on Friday appealed to young people in Donegal and Derry to reduce their social contacts.

Donegal moved to risk Level Three of the Government's plan to deal with Covid-19 following advice from the National Public Health Emergency.

Last night the Department of Health revealed another 248 cases were detected and there had been five deaths.

Dr Lunn said that despite high-profile incidents such as 'Golfgate' most have stayed within the rules.

"It is easy to underestimate that because you can't see compliance, compliance takes place behind closed doors," he said.

However, compared to the Dominic Cummings affair in the UK, 'Golfgate' didn't affect Irish people sticking to the rules.

"Actually people were so outraged by this they more kind of bonded over the outrage and made sure they got their pound of flesh."

Dr Lunn also warned that the pandemic lockdown has had a major impact on people's mental health.

"One of the important things you can do is not to focus on things you have lost and what you can't do but to focus on the things you can...things you enjoy."

The second key to staying happy is to get outdoors, whatever the weather, to get walking or to get a coffee with friends.

"All the evidence suggests that spending more time outdoors in times of isolation makes people happier."