From top: Dr Johan Giesecke; Michael McNamara TD
Oireachtas Special Covid-19 Response Committee meeting.
Further to testimony from Dr Johan Giesecke, former chief epidemiologist in Sweden…
….Dr Giesecke was asked what a “soft lockdown” would entail compared to a hard lockdown.
“There’s no law telling people to stay at home and the police will not pick you up on the street when you shouldn’t be on the street. It is telling people what they should do with distancing, with handwashing, with staying home and so on, self-isolation if you feel sick.
“And you can actually estimate that the number of, in March, mid-March, when the Government introduced these measures, you could calculate that the number of potentially infectious contacts between people in Sweden dropped by 70%, just voluntary, no law.
People did what they were asked to do and they have continued, one thing that’s good with the Swedish strategy is that we haven’t changed anything for the six months whereas other countries are going in and out of lockdowns and restrictions, and which countries you can fly to and which countries you can not fly to.”
Asked how would Covid-19 be allowed to circulate among under-60s yet prevent its transmission to people over-60 and in care homes, Dr Giesecke said:
“Like Professor [Kirsten] Schafer [President of the Irish Society of Clinical Microbiology] said, there is no 100 per cent way to do that but there is a lot you can do to minimise the risk of introduction of the virus in care homes. Over.”
….Chair of the committee and Independent TD Michael McNamara asked Dr Giesecke if he agreed with the assertion that immunity levels in Sweden are currently no greater than other European states – despite Sweden allowing the virus to circulate more than those states.
Dr Giesecke replied:
“No, I think immunity levels are higher in countries where you had circulation.”
Asked about the efficacy of mask-wearing in all public settings, Dr Giesecke said that he agreed with Dr Tomás Ryan of the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin that social distancing is more important than masks (Dr Ryan also said Ireland should have greater levels of mask wearing, and that mask wearing in all indoor environments should be promoted).
Dr Giesecke then had this exchange with Mr McNamara.
Michael McNamara: “Are masks compulsory in Sweden?”
Dr Giesecke: “No.”
McNamara: “Are they worn generally in schools?”
Dr Giesecke: “No.”
McNamara: “But do you think it would be beneficial if they were worn more?”
Dr Giesecke: “I think the scientific evidence to support mask wearing are very thin.”
Finally, each speaker was offered the chance to give their final thoughts to the committee about responding to Covid-19. Dr Giesecke said:
“Two things. Watch out for undemocratic decisions that are using emergency legislation in the case where it may not be needed. That’s number one. Number two is this will be with us for a long time. We will have to learn to live with this virus. Unless a very good vaccine comes out before Easter which I doubt. Thanks for inviting me.”
Earlier: Herdy Gurdy