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covid concerns 'We opened the door and let the virus back in,' warns public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally

'We will pay high price for easing restrictions'

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Dr Gabriel Scally

Dr Gabriel Scally

Dr Gabriel Scally

Public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally has warned Ireland will pay a high price for easing Covid restrictions this Christmas.

A significant spike in infection and subsequent hospital admissions and deaths are the inevitable results of allowing people back into pubs, restaurants and shops.

He also expressed his concern about people being allowed to fly into Ireland without being forced to quarantine.

"The travel thing freaks me out, people can fly into Dublin, vanish over the border and nobody checks if they are in quarantine - it's a mess and all it's doing is prolonging this misery."

He said news of a vaccine was "positive and very welcome" but warned against complacency.

"Certainly this vaccine is very promising, but I temper it with the fact that even at 90 per cent efficiency it still means one in ten people will get Covid. We are going to live with this for a very long time, people will still get sick."

Dr Scally, a former public health director, who has been a consistent critic of what he sees as the failure of the administrations on the island to tackle the virus, said he was "baffled and disturbed" by the current advice.

He singled out the ruling that unlimited people from three households would be able to mix over the Christmas period in Northern Ireland as the most destructive element of the advice. "It's a green flag for reckless behaviour," he said.

He said that just because it's not breaking the rules "ask yourself do you really need to do it.

"My ambition and hope is to safely see my friends and my family through to the point when they can't get the virus, that's what would make me happy."

He said Northern Ireland and the UK were on course to be the "worst in the world" and the south won't be far behind.

Deaths north of the border have passed the 1,000 mark while in the Republic it has hit 2,000.

"That is an unfettered failure and represents an abrogation of responsibility, a fatal abrogation."

He said any notion that Covid was being suppressed was nonsense. Death rates show no sign of diminishing, infection rates remain stubbornly high and yet people in power are prepared for an acceptable level of infection in order to maintain the economy.

"It's embarrassing. At the end of the summer I remember Northern Ireland had zero deaths, zero infections, we had suppressed the virus, but look where we are now, the current death rate is higher than the infection rate when we emerged - too early - from lockdown. We opened the door and let it back in."

In a hard-hitting interview, he told the Sunday World the hard lessons of living through a pandemic have not been learned. "People are going to go to restaurants, bars, they will be sitting across from each other, they will be laughing, coughing, talking loudly, have we learnt nothing?"

And he dismissed as "ludicrous" the argument that Covid restrictions such as wearing a mask represent a breach in people's human rights.

"It's a bit like saying you don't agree with driving on the left-hand side of the road, the truth is you don't have a choice, the same applies to this virus, if we want to cope with it we don't have a choice.

"It's not a right to refuse, it's a responsibility to behave, do the right thing, I don't want to be infected and I certainly don't want to infect anyone else."

Dr Scally said he lamented the response of his native Northern Ireland to the crisis, particularly the failure to co-ordinate with Dublin.

He added he understood government had to balance a healthy population with a healthy economy.

"Having said that, the summer was about tourism, getting people back in. Christmas is about retail, boozing, eating - all of it comes at a price."

And it's going to be a heavy price.

"It's a nailed-on certainty that by the time of Christmas week infections will be up, January they will be up again. If only we had pressed home the advantage home when we had the virus on the run."

His comments come as the WHO revealed someone dies from Covid every nine seconds.

"There is a headlong rush to be open for Christmas, I would just caution people, is it worth it?"

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