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COVID-19: Irish people need to resist tendency of going into work sick if upsurge is to be avoided Oireachtas Committee hears

Posted 10 June, 2020

The Oireachtas' COVID-19 committee has heard Irish people need to resist their tendency of going into work sick if Ireland is to avoid an upsurge in the virus.

As the country prepares to loosen several restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus, Dr Cillian De Gascun, Director of the UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory, told the committee it was important for people to stay home if they're unwell.

“Irish people tend to be very good about going to work when they are sick,” he said when asked about the risk of a second wave of coronavirus.

“We have that complex whereby we feel we cannot call in sick or stay at home. That is really important as well. If people have respiratory symptoms for whatever reason, they need to stay at home in the coming flu seasons because if they are going to work while coughing and sneezing, they are transmitting something.”

Addressing other concerns about an upsurge in COVID-19 cases, Dr De Gascun said there was not a lot of evidence that the virus was stopped by non-medical grade masks.

He further added that inappropriate masks could potentially increase the risk of transmission.

“We know that the evidence on cloth masks and non-medical grade masks is not fantastic. As a barrier, it certainly prevents some particulate matter from spreading. Where people are symptomatic and coughing and sneezing, the mask will prevent onward transmission of particles that, we presume, contain virus.

“However, many of the experiments that have been done to date have really been to demonstrate a proof of principle rather than actually demonstrating that virus is not transmitted.”

Dr De Gascun suggested more regular cleaning for schools and other areas, good hand hygiene, physical distancing, and good respiratory etiquette as examples of measures that will help reduce the risk of a resurgence.

He also recommended all categories of society getting the flu vaccine this year, and that manufacturing of medical grade masks be scaled up if the Government plans to give each household a supply of masks.

“We know there is an inequity where some people cannot afford to purchase their own face masks or are not in a position to make their own face masks,” he added.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations