HSE Chief Clinical Officer calls data on outdoor Covid-19 transmission “misleading” 1 month ago

HSE Chief Clinical Officer calls data on outdoor Covid-19 transmission “misleading”

Data revealed that outdoor transmission is responsible for one out of every 1,000 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer with the HSE, has said that data suggesting that outdoor transmission is responsible for only 0.1% of cases of Covid-19 in Ireland is “misleading”.

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Data published in The Irish Times on Monday revealed that 0.1% of Covid-19 cases in Ireland can be traced back to outdoor transmission, a figure that accounts for one in every 1,000 cases of the virus.

The data comes as calls for a return to outdoor and sporting activities have increased following moderate easing of restrictions announced by the government last week, which will come into effect later this month.

Under current government guidance, outdoor attractions, such as zoos, and outdoor sporting facilities, such as golf courses and tennis courts, can reopen from 26 April, a date when non-contact training for underage sports is also permitted to restart.

Barring a return to training for inter-county GAA and elite level sport from 19 April, however, the return of training at adult level is not yet accounted for under government guidance. Outdoor meetings remain limited, meanwhile, to meetings between two households that can't take place in the garden of either household.

Responding to the data on Tuesday, Dr Colm Henry said that it is misleading in that the figures from the Health Surveillance Protection Centre (HPSC) account for recorded outbreaks only and not, for example, activities related to outdoor gatherings, such as shared transport or dressing room congregations.

Speaking to RTÉ News at One, Henry acknowledged how much safer outdoor environments are when it comes to transmission of the virus, saying: "The message that does come across from this data is that, in the purest sense, when people adhere to social distancing and other Covid measures, outdoor transmission is 19 to 20 times less likely than indoor transmission."

Henry added, however, that the data is "misleading in terms of the number because it pertains to outbreaks in outdoor settings, it doesn't really include all the other scenarios where people might acquire Covid when they congregate in any activity associated" with said outdoor gatherings.

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Henry said it is "ultimately up the Government" to decide whether or not the data should lead to changes in restrictions on outdoor gatherings, but reiterated the need to exert caution and follow public health guidelines in all settings.

"We can't drop our guard at any time," Henry said.