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Prepare for coronavirus second wave, says NI chief scientific adviser

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Professor Ian Young

Professor Ian Young

Professor Ian Young

Northern Ireland must prepare for a potential second wave of the coronovirus, most likely in the autumn or early winter, the region's chief scientific adviser has warned.

Professor Ian Young said there is a "high likelihood" of that new wave, and others in the future.

"I do not think it is inevitable but I think it is something that's extremely sensible to plan for," Professor Young told BBC Radio Foyle.

"It is going to remain with us for a long time until we get a significant level of population immunity which probably means at least 70 to 80 percent of the population get to be immune either because they have been infected, have recovered and retain immunity, or because there is a successful vaccine," the professor said.

He added: "And the most we can do to try and stop it is to stick to the restrictions in place, to remember the hand washing, to remember the respiratory hygiene, wear a mask that has been recommended on public transport and in shops and being careful to keep our distance as much as we can."

Professor Young predicted that there will be a lower risk in the summer time as it is known the virus survives less well in the sunlight and outdoors.

"There is still risk during that time and as we get into the autumn and winter where people are spending more time indoors, they are closer together, there is not so much sunlight and we have the normal flu season, then all of those things add together and certainly increases the risk...and that is definitely something people are thinking about and considering in planning," the scientific adviser said.

The advise at this stage is against indoor visits of family members, but the Stormont Executive has allowed family members to meet outdoors.

"The indoor visits are a significantly higher level of risk than the out door visits, which we are encouraging and the executive has permitted at the moment," Professor Young said.

"In terms of indoor activities of business, visits to close family members while maintaining social distancing and being very careful with cleaning surfaces are at the low risk of the spectrum...but right now they are a step too far," the adviser said, adding that he is urging people to keep those visits outdoors.

Professor Young added that his team and others are working on the basis of the R, or reproduction number, which currently sits at around 0.8, which reveals how many people are infected by any one individual.

"We need to make sure that R stays below one and for us to be certain about that typically takes about two or three weeks (after each stage),"

Professor Young said: "The R number has not changed in any significant way over the last number of days.

"When the R number is under one then the epidemic is under control." he added.

Belfast Telegraph