The Sligo-born head of the World Health Organisation’s emergency team says lockdowns will not be enough to fully defeat the coronavirus.
Dr. Michael Ryan says the danger is that without strong public health measures, the virus will jump back up again when lockdowns are eventually lifted.
Michael Ryan, from Curry, in south Sligo, trained as a trauma surgeon, and switched to public health after suffering a life-altering back injury during the 1990 war in Iraq.
That led to training in communicable diseases and a full time post with the World Health Organisation.
He has since been involved in the fights against Sars, Ebola, bird flu and other threats to global health.
Now, he’s leading the global fight against the coronavirus.
And that’ a fight that’s about to become even more intense.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has warned that tougher restrictions on movement will be introduced if people do not heed advice about social distancing.
And Dr Ryan says lockdowns on society will not be enough.
He says what is really needed is a focus on finding those who are sick, those who have the virus and their contacts, and isolating them.
He says if strong public health measures are not put in place now, the danger is that the disease will jump back up when movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted.
Dr Ryan said that the examples of China, Singapore and South Korea, which coupled restrictions with rigorous measures to test every possible suspect, provided a model for Europe, which has now replaced Asia as the epicentre of the pandemic.
Once we’ve suppressed the transmission, we have to go after the virus itself, Dr Ryan said.
Meanwhile, the government and experts here are insisting on the importance of maintaining two-metre distances from other people, regular handwashing and personal hygiene, as well as adhering to strict restrictions on gatherings.