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Leading immunologist labels lockdown a ‘very crude mechanism’

NIAMH CAHILL

Further lockdowns to help limit the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland based on recent case numbers and hospitalisations are unnecessary, according to an expert in experimental immunology.

Prof Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), said he did not believe additional lockdowns were required and that such measures should only be introduced to prevent health systems becoming overwhelmed.

Speaking to the Medical Independent earlier this month, he said: “I don’t think we are in as bad a place as we were in April/early May by any means; it would have to get an awful lot worse. There was talk of further lockdowns recently, but I don’t think that’s necessary or called for.”

However, Prof Mills noted “it always takes a while” for a rise in cases to translate into a notable increase in hospitalisations.

According to data at the start of September, there were six confirmed cases of Covid-19 in intensive care units and 40 confirmed cases in hospitals.
Despite the low number of deaths and hospitalisation in recent weeks, however, there was no evidence that the virus was getting milder, Prof Mills cautioned.

He said the younger population was now getting infected in greater numbers.

“Healthy people by and large get a mild disease or a lot of them – more than half – get no symptoms at all. These are people that are not going to end up in hospital.”

Prof Mills continued: “I don’t think it’s a measure anyway that should be used. I think lockdowns are very crude mechanisms for controlling a pandemic. Really the only thing they should be used for are stopping health systems from getting overwhelmed and that’s what happened across Europe. The reason that they were utilised was to stop health systems from collapsing.”

Last month at the Oireachtas committee on Covid-19, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly warned that Ireland “could be looking at another national lockdown” if the threat posed by the virus was not taken seriously.

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