The public will have to double-down on efforts around social distancing and hygiene as the coronavirus restrictions are gradually eased, an expert has warned.
Ruairi Brugha, professor of epidemiology and public health medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), said the country can only move to the next stage if people take responsibility for how they behave around distancing measures.
It comes as new evidence indicated people are starting to increase movement and disregard social distancing rules.
We can only move into this next stage if people take responsibility for how they engage in more relaxed behaviourRuairi Brugha
Prof Brugha warned easing restrictions is “quite complex” and said a lot of steps need to be put in place.
He told RTE’s Morning Ireland: “Once we reach the point of relaxation, it’s going to determine whether we are going to maintain control of this epidemic or risk a second wave epidemic down the road.
“We can’t keep things as they are and we need to recognise that as we relax certain measures, carefully in a staged way with good monitoring systems in place, we have to double-down on what we need to do around distancing and hygiene.
“The responsibility will be more now on the public than it was previously.
“During what people call the lockdown, which really wasn’t a lockdown, it was actually simpler, it was tough on people, but it was simpler in that people were staying at home and we could distance with our families, the weekly shop to the supermarket, we knew what to do then.
“We can only move into this next stage if people take responsibility for how they engage in more relaxed behaviour, whether it’s going back to work or children going back to school and it isn’t enough to have four-fifths of us actually taking this seriously.
“It only takes a small number of people to behave in a celebratory way. We know that we Irish when we get the opportunity want to be convivial and we want to do it around alcohol and we’ve seen the big increase in alcohol sales.”
He said it only take around 2-3% of the population to behave in an irresponsible way to risk the spread of the virus.
The professor said the Government needs to outline a communications strategy as relaxation measures are put in place.
On Thursday, the number of coronavirus-linked deaths in Ireland rose to 794, with 28 further fatalities confirmed in the previous 24 hours.
There were 936 new cases of the disease confirmed, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 17,607.