If you sometimes thought you were in a science-fiction movie set in Ireland over the last six months, you are not alone. We are now at another “tipping point” in the pandemic fight, but the news is both good and bad.
There is no need to despair – we are learning all the time about the lethal secrets of this virus. But we still don’t know enough or have the necessary medicinal tools to defeat it. Covid-19 is calling the shots again.
We have discovered the benefit of wearing face masks.
Professor Kingston Mills, of the School of Biochemistry and Immunology in Trinity College Dublin, says: “If you asked me the question, is wearing a face mask or washing our hands more important, emphatically, wearing a mask is more important.
“I am not dismissing washing hands and it’s important. People say I am washing my hands every hour.
“It is not going to stop transmission of the virus if someone sneezes near you.”
The odds of getting the virus have escalated.
For much of last spring, we were cosseted in lockdown, dust gathering on abandoned office desks, construction sites deserted. If we are more likely to encounter Covid-19 now, it’s because our behaviour has changed.
More cities, towns and villages will become temporary ghost towns if Level 5 is imposed.
But even with that armoury of knowledge, it does not stem the rise of the virus – we slipped back into the old habits of a lifetime, mixing and mingling without social distancing or wearing a mask.
Prof Mills said things were very different now compared with March and April. “The dominant population getting infected then were the older population. Now it is the general population and it is the younger population. The consequences of that is the death rate is much lower. But the worrying trend is the growing number of cases ending up in hospital and in intensive care.
“Several of the country’s intensive care units are now at full capacity. That is a problem.”
He said the “alarm bells” were ringing around people not adhering to the guidelines, and ignoring requests to have Covid-19 tests.
“We have seen scenes of partying and activities conducive to the spread of the virus. We have also seen a significant number of people called for tests are not going for them because they don’t have symptoms.
“That is a problem – 50pc or more people don’t have any symptoms of the virus and they can still spread it. If they’re not isolated then the whole thing is never going to be brought under control.
“I think we need to make a call for testing mandatory.”
He said there was a need to look at more tests with a faster turnaround time.
“There are variants that might have a difference in virulence, but it does not explain the reduced deaths. Earlier in the year, we were not testing people who were asymptomatic. Everyone who came for a test was already diagnosed, effectively, because they had two or three symptoms of the disease.
“Now we are testing people with no symptoms and half the people are asymptomatic.
“That, of course, is going to change the dynamic of what you consider to be the virulence of the virus. It has not changed – it’s the testing that has changed.”
He does not believe that surfaces are a large source of transmission of the virus.
“The vast majority of transmission is through aerosol and people sneezing, coughing and even talking loudly in a room. You can sneeze on to a surface and people can touch that surface, but that is a minor route of transmission in my view.”
“People are not wearing masks visiting people’s homes or when they went out to the pub, when they were open.” He pointed out that 100pc of people in a room needed to be wearing one.
Source: Irish News