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Rules must be strictly followed for GAA to fulfil ambitious diary, says Professor Horgan



On alert: Professor Mary Horgan says that self-responsibility is key

On alert: Professor Mary Horgan says that self-responsibility is key

�INPHO/Gary Carr

On alert: Professor Mary Horgan says that self-responsibility is key

One of the island's leading authorities on infectious diseases has warned that the GAA's guidelines will need to be strictly adhered to if the Association is to complete the ambitious series of games set out between now and Christmas.

Professor Mary Horgan, who has advised World Rugby on their Return to Play protocols and also sits on the GAA's Covid-19 Advisory Group, insists that individual behaviours around the various measures designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus have "a huge impact on the ability of the games to continue".

A consultant in infectious diseases, Professor Horgan insisted that anyone with symptoms must stay at home as the GAA edges back towards matches in the coming weeks.

"What I would say is that self-responsibility has a huge impact on the ability of the games to continue," Professor Horgan said. "It needs to be taken seriously first and foremost. The paperwork may seem onerous and someone mentioned, 'Oh gosh, it's a lot to do', but people need to understand it is serious.

"If we want to stay where we are at now you have to understand what the symptoms are, what you can do to stop it being spread and what you can do to protect yourself. And when you do that individually it has a positive knock-on effect to your team-mates and spectators.

"I know it sounds like saying the same old thing but that hand hygiene, the cough etiquette (is important). So don't come to play if you have any of the symptoms, particularly fever and cough. Stay at home, call your doctor and get tested."

Professor Horgan explained why the GAA felt comfortable enough to move forward.

"The key change is the dramatic reduction in the number of cases. They really peaked around mid to late April and since that time the number of cases has dramatically decreased. And why is that the case?" she continued.

"Really because of what is called non-pharmaceutical interventions. In other words, the things we did as people - the washing of the hands, social distancing, cough etiquette and more recently the face mask in closed, crowded conditions. And in addition to that, the testing, tracing and isolating of those who are positive."

Horgan also explained that the fact that Gaelic games are played outdoors, combined with the limited periods of contact in the game, mean that risk is reduced significantly.

"There are a number of studies now, but activities outdoors versus indoors there is probably about a 20-fold lower risk of getting Covid, which is huge. You're outside, the wind is blowing so your chance of picking up an infection outside is much lower than in a closed environment, and that's important to emphasise for all of the players," she said.

"You can't play sport one metre or two apart but most of the time, and I am not an expert, but you might shoulder people but then you are apart again. And even when they looked at the rugby, which you would think is high-contact sport, they were only together in very close contact for less than 15 minutes.

"You are moving around, you are a younger age group, you are fitter and most don't have the risk factors which result in the worst outcomes who were either hospitalised or passed on."

Belfast Telegraph