‘We are only as strong as the weakest link’ says Irish WHO chief


The Executive Director of the World Health Organisation’s Health Emergencies Programme, Dr Mike Ryan has said that the new criteria for testing introduced in Ireland on Wednesday are in keeping with the WHO’s best practice guidelines.

The former trauma surgeon and epidemiologist specialising in infectious disease and public health told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that there needs to be rapid testing of suspect cases and that they are processed quickly “to take the heat out of the epidemic.”

Dr Ryan cautioned that there tends to be a slow down of cases before the peak.

“That’s when we have to double down and become more aggressive.”

“Countries that have implemented ‘slow down’ or ‘lock down’ measures have seen the number of contact cases dropping, as has happened in Ireland. Such measures are vital to save lives,” he said.

Dr Ryan also warned that “if we have to live with the virus until there is a vaccine, we can’t lurch from lock down to lock down.”

“Less contact means less spread of the virus,” he said.

One of the key factors in fighting the spread of the virus was how best to use finite resources, he explained. “It’s about using what you have in a more effective way.”

Testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) have to be used “at the highest levels of effectiveness.” Extending the lifespan of PPE can be done, he acknowledged, but it needs to be done very carefully.

“A strong public health service and a health service with the capacity to cope with a surge were vital,” he said.

At present most health services had very little capacity to expand “when things go wrong,” he said.

Dr Ryan warned that the world needed to fight the virus together “at the same time. We are only as strong as the weakest link. None of us are safe until all of us are safe.”

    Useful information

  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people – this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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