Essentially, this could mean that pubs, for example, could be opened on a county by county basis.
Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has suggested that measures to combat the spread the Covid-19 on a localised, rather than on a national level, could work in Ireland.
Ryan, a native of Sligo, was speaking to Sarah McInerney on RTÉ Radio One on the day a decision is due to be made on whether or not to proceed to Phase 4 of the reopening of society and business in Ireland next Monday (10 August).
Recent events in Australia, where a ‘State of Disaster’ was declared in Melbourne following a spike in cases in the country’s second biggest city, were discussed during the conversation, prompting McInerney to ask Ryan if Covid-19 measures could be implemented on a localised level in Ireland.
“Yes and that, to an extent, depends on mobility between areas, but certainly you can use a localised strategy, by county, by province, whatever it is in the Irish context,” Ryan said.
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“But to do that, you need very localised data, you need localised response capacity.
“If you’re going to say there’s no need to leave the building because there’s one room burning, then you absolutely have to trust that the fire service can put out the fire in that one room.
“And, therefore, localised, rapid response, the ability to turn around testing quickly, the ability to investigate clusters quickly and reassure everybody else, 'yes we’re taking the localised measures', and maybe even localised measures that increase the level of physical distance, reduced crowding.
“And you’ve seen that in Australia, the state of Victoria has one level, Stage Three, Melbourne has a Stage Four lockdown, and the rest of the country is in other stages.”
Addressing the potential reopening of pubs in Ireland in particular, Ryan said that the government has a very difficult decision to make.
“Certainly, poorly ventilated, crowded areas where people may reduce their social distancing, let down their guard… you know, pubs in Ireland are highly social enterprises and they’re often very crowded, so from that perspective it should be seen in the context of ‘can you manage transmission in that environment?’,” Ryan said.
“It is a balance and it is dependent on people’s behaviours and how they adapt.
“Certainly, restaurants have reopened in Ireland… and it would be important to look at the success of that. Have people complied? Has that been managed in way that has not increased risk?
“But crowded gatherings, parties, things where, particularly, young people gather in large numbers and where social and physical distance is reduced, we’ve seen that in other countries, it can spark epidemics.”
“Ireland has very low incidence, it has worked very hard to get there and obviously, no more than in Australia, Ireland will have to make a balanced decision between the risk of the epidemic spiking and the need to get back to work and social life.” Ryan added.
“It’s not an easy decision and quite frankly, there are no correct answers.
“Every day, the data changes and the government must remain flexible and be given the flexibility to manage this in a prudent way.”
You can listen back to the conversation in full here.