- 20 Apr 21
The Irish Cabinet will meet next week to discuss the State's reopening plans for May, June and July along with advice and guidance from NPHET.
A noted member of UK Covid Advisory Group SAGE has stated in a new interview that there is "almost no instance" of outdoor COVID-19 transmission.
Professor John Edmunds (SAGE and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) spoke to BBC Sounds on April 18th, stating that:
"There is really almost no instance that we know of, of transmission occurring outside."
"It's safe, frankly. We're outside, I don't see any great risk. People are in small groups and staying distant from each other," Professor Edmunds added.
"I think some of it is a little overblown. Some of it looks good on the front page of the newspapers, but low angle shots make it appear as though there are loads and loads of people crammed in together when that's not usually the case."
Referencing the India 'double variant' and a potential winter lockdown in the UK, the scientist stated:
"Out of these new variants, the South African one is probably the one we're most worried about. That's why this mass testing is taking place in South London."
"Depending on how well that works, it could be the same tactic we take in the future towards variants coming into the UK over the next few months. If that doesn't work, we may have to put local restrictions back in place. Nobody wants to do that, though."
Meanwhile in Ireland, the head of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) stated on April 15th that the number of cases of COVID-19 from outdoor transmission is “extremely low".
Of the 232,164 cases of COVID-19 recorded in the country up to March 24th this year, 262 were reported as a result of outbreaks related to outdoor transmission, representing just one in a thousand cases.
However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin stated that the figure was an underestimation as it did not include individual COVID-19 cases which were as a result of outdoor transmission.
When queried, Dr Lorraine Doherty, the national clinical director of the HPSC, said it does not have the data related to individual cases from outdoors.
According to Dr Doherty, there is likely to be a “proportion of cases” of outdoor transmission associated with household settings and infections acquired outdoors which are part of community transmission where the source of the infection is not known.
Professor Philip Nolan commented at the NPHET briefing that outdoor gatherings “do seem to us to have had a positive impact on the instances of infection”.
Speaking to the Department of Health today, Hot Press was told that "while outdoors is safer, it is not risk-free":
"The National Public Health Emergency Team has consistently advised that outdoors is safer than indoors. This was a key informing principle in the development of the 5 level Framework last September and advice to Government in relation to the easing of some measures over April – focused specifically on outdoor activities. It is important to note that while outdoors is safer, it is not risk-free."
"We must continue to practice social distancing and other safe behaviours when meeting people outdoors and masks should be worn in crowded outdoor spaces," the Department added.
Emphasis was made by the Department on cases which were noted as a result of activities preceding and following large outdoor gatherings.
"HIQA undertook an evidence review on higher-risk environments and activities for NPHET in November 2020, drawing on national and international evidence. The Review found that while there is consistent evidence that the risk of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is substantially lower, there is still evidence of transmission occurring in outdoor environments."
"This is particularly the case when there are large gatherings, where social distancing or the use of face coverings are neglected, and where there is dense congregation and mixing among groups. There are also risks linked to what might precede and follow outdoor gatherings – associated events/activities, shared travel to/from events/activities."
Simon Harris today confirmed that the Government is looking at "doing more" to restart the hospitality sector, noting that outdoor dining could start up again within a matter of weeks in Ireland.
The Minister said it may be possible for outdoor dining and other activities to resume from May, stating that he was "more hopeful than ever" about curating a summer similar to last year.
The Cabinet will meet next week to focus on Ireland's reopening plans for the next three months, with last week seeing some travel restrictions being eased as Ireland continues on the road out of Level 5 lockdown.