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Dr Luke O’Neill Dismisses Varadkar’s Local Lockdown Warning

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Professor Luke O’Neill has dismissed the Tánaiste’s localised lockdown warning as an admission of failure.

This comes after Leo Varadkar warned that local lockdowns remain a possibility. This came following scenes of large gatherings in Dublin over the weekend.

The Fine Gael leader did also state that when footage of large crowds gathering is posted online, it can lead to an “overreaction”. More on that here. 

“A failure to contain the virus”

However, Dr Luke O’Neill said that localised lockdowns mean that efforts to contain Covid-19 have failed.

“Vaccines are the best way to avoid future lockdowns because they are protecting people and preventing severe illness”, Dr O’Neill said. “So that remains mission one, but the goal has to be to avoid all lockdowns”.

The renowned immunologist also added, “They are a failure to contain the virus, which means a failure in contact tracing, helping people observe public health guidelines and also inward travel from high risk areas”.

“So we have to hope there should be no more lockdowns, local or otherwise”, he added.

“Of course if the numbers in hospital climb a lot, and then turn into increased ICU admissions (as happened in January) then the government might have to act and localised lockdown is preferable to national lockdowns, but they have to be seen as a last resort”.

Dr O’Neill also said that it is still safe for people to socialise outdoors, as long as they do it safely and sensibly. More on that here.

Local lockdowns

Local lockdowns have been put in place in Ireland before with counties like Kildare and Laois facing August lockdowns last year.

Anthony Staines is the professor for Health Systems, School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health at Dublin City University. Staines said that if local lockdowns are to be implimented in the future here, the amenities must be in place for them to have an impact.

“We would need to have a reasonable number of people reporting to the local public heath team, because at the moment it is being done through call centers”, he said. “There’s very few local public health people and they don’t have any more resources than they did a year ago, so really we should make a decision to bring case numbers down as much as we can first”. 

Staines also said that while the UK maybe exiting lockdown quicker than Ireland, Ireland is on the same track.

“Therefore we just have to make a decision as to what we would be willing to do if things change and if case numbers don’t go down”, he said. “I do think part of that could come to localised lockdowns and it could well be on a county by county basis, depending on where or how big the outbreak is”. 

CMO, Dr Tony Holohan warned that the Inidian Variant is a “dark cloud on the horizon”. 155 cases of the variant have been detected in the country, up from 97 the previous week. More here.

The director of public health for HSE mid-west Dr Mai Mannix last night also warned of growing outbreaks in Limerick with 740 cases detected between May 16-31.