NPHET's Covid modelling chief explains specific grounds for local lockdowns
"Speed saves lives."
Professor Philip Nolan, who has been Chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group for the NPHET since the outset of the Covid crisis, has shared the principles underpinning the decision to lock down Kildare, Laois and Offaly for two weeks.
On Twitter today, Nolan wrote: "A few principles that help me understand the approach to containing the current outbreaks of COVID-19. 1. Outbreaks can grow explosively in some settings due to 'super-spreader' events, and have many cases by the time one case is detected."
This appears to have been the case in several meat processing factories, as well as in Direct Provision centres, leading to the latest surge in cases.
He went on: "A large outbreak means it's likely there are latent or asymptomatic cases in the community. It is vital at that point to limit congregation and contact between households to limit onward transmission.
"Test-trace-isolate is a tool used by public health to manage and control outbreaks, not a magic wand to prevent outbreaks in the first place. It’s an important tool, but just one tool, in the complex process of case and outbreak management.
"The ways to interrupt viral transmission work in combination: limit contacts, avoid crowded indoor settings, hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distance, face coverings, self-isolation at the first sign of symptoms, test-trace-isolate."
The government is now under pressure to explain why tighter controls weren't enforced in crowded indoor settings, such as meat factories, even though the issue was raised in Dáil Éireann on multiple occasions.
"Where a community is at high risk these measures may have to be reinforced with specific regional restrictions on movement and congregation. This is a difficult decision, and must be made quickly. Speed saves lives," he concluded.