Irish scientists launch ‘We Can be Zero’ calling for a Zero-Covid approach across Ireland

Aoibhín Meghen

We Can be Zero is a campaign launched by a group of Irish scientists on Monday February 1st. 

The group are calling for a Zero Covid approach across Ireland which would include controlling unnecessary travel and suppressing the number of Covid-19 infections to single digits.

According to the We Can be Zero website Zero Covid means that Ireland has zero mystery cases of Covid-19 and this can be achieved through three Cs – Crush, Control and Chase.

They want to suppress Covid-19 infections to as low as possible, control the borders and prevent any unnecessary travel into Ireland and establish an effective and efficient track and trace system.

The scientists who are members of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) say that the ‘Living with Covid Plan’ introduced by the Irish Government in September has failed and it is now time to try a different approach.

On February 1st Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said that the approach being called for by We Can be Zero is not possible due to Ireland’s membership in the European Union and the state of our public health system.

However, public health specialist Anthony Staines believes the messaging that says we cannot take a Zero Covid approach in Ireland is misguided and false.

“We tend to think that things that work in other countries somehow magically won’t work in Ireland,” said Staines who is a professor in DCU’s School of Nursing and one of the founders of ISAG.

According to him countries like Australia are more dependent on tourism than Ireland and New Zealand has more food exports. 

Although Ireland now has 14 day mandatory at home quarantine and Gardaí do have the power to check that people are adhering to it, it is far more difficult to monitor and control than it would be in a hotel.

Staines believes that the Government needs to reevaluate their approach and recognise that money needs to be spent so that Ireland’s economy can reopen.

“None of them are free, none of them are low cost, but compared with the cost of continuing the lockdown or continuing to let the virus roam about killing people, they are relatively cheap,” said Staines.

“The current government plan is to continue into Level 5 restrictions into the indefinite future,” he said, but “the alternative is to try and get the number of cases to zero.” 

Although Staines and ISAG are focused on managing Covid-19 into the future he believes that previous public health decisions “were made by people who were quite unsuited to making them.”

Before Covid-19 even appeared public health had “fallen down the radar and allowed to get very weak,” Staines said. He acknowledged that public health experts were also at fault in allowing public health to weaken.

However when the pandemic began Staines and his colleagues “were not able to persuade politicians and civil servants to let public health look after this.”

Now with We Can be Zero, ISAG are hoping to push the Government to reassess their Covid-19 strategy allowing the economy to reopen and even those who are at risk to resume their daily lives.

Aoibhín Meghen

Note: This article was reuploaded on the 23/03/21 due to a fault with The College View website.