A leading researcher in Ireland said the Government should adopt Covid-19 measures that will stamp out all active cases.
It comes after more than 1,000 scientists and researchers called for the Government to suppress coronavirus rather than learning to live with the virus under a long-term mitigation strategy.
On Monday, New Zealand’s health officials said there were no longer any known active cases of Covid-19 in the country.
Anthony Staines, professor of health systems at Dublin City University (DCU), said Ireland should aim to do the same.
This isn't a wave the magic wand and we go to zero, this is a process, but it's a process we can do and the steps are affordableAnthony Staines, professor at Dublin City University
“How we do that is we start from where we are in releasing the lockdown and we encourage people to wear masks,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.
“We put a lot of emphasis on getting testing and tracing of contacts running really fast. We have made a lot of progress but we’re not there yet.”
He said that testing should be introduced at airports and only people who test negative should be allowed “to proceed”.
“Finally, we take all of the long-term measures and do a proper public risk assessment on each of them – that can be done very quickly,” the professor added.
“Then we make decisions about the shape of the next phase. The whole objective of this is to avoid the long-term costs of having coronavirus circulating in our community.”
He said that Ireland is one of a few European countries that is close to having zero Covid cases.
“Most of the other (countries) have said explicitly we want to get to zero,” he added.
“It reduces from a major crisis that’s cut across our economy to an important but manageable public health issue.
“This isn’t a wave the magic wand and we go to zero, this is a process, but it’s a process we can do and the steps are affordable.
“We do things like wearing masks and test people at the airport, and we do things like an aggressive test and trace regime, which we need to do anyway.
“We go through the lockdown from where we are now and we make decisions about how we move out and how.
“The Northern Ireland strategy is not very different from our strategy, except there are no definite dates, but otherwise very similar patterns.
“The two jurisdictions work reasonably well together in health.
“It does pose challenges, but if we take advantage of our strengths we can actually gain substantial economic benefits by bringing this down to zero.”
On Monday, more than 1,000 researchers signed an open letter calling for the Government to take “resolute actions” to suppress this pandemic.
The letter added: “If we decide to live with the virus, extensive, and expensive, restrictions will continue for the foreseeable future.
“A vaccine will take at least two years, and there is no established treatment.”
The coronavirus death toll in the country rose to 1,683 on Monday after a further four deaths were announced.
There were only nine new confirmed cases of the virus, the lowest daily tally since the early days of the outbreak in March.