As Ireland gradually lifts COVID19 restrictions, Mairead McGuinness MEP for the Midlands–North-West constituency since July 2004 and First Vice-President of the European Parliament has urged authorities to carefully manage expectations.
The Fine Gael MEP’s comments come as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC ) confirms that the initial wave of infections has passed the peak, with only one EU member state, Bulgaria, showing an increase in infection rates, while no change occurring in a further four countries including UK, Sweden, Poland and Romania.
In recent days, the European Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee heard a warning from the Director of the ECDC, Dr. Andrea Ammon, that this virus is not going away any time soon and that it is important to manage people’s expectations and mentally prepare them for the challenge of living with COVID-19 for a considerable period of time, McGuinness confirmed.
“This means that we must not drop our guard on social distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and wearing masks.
“However, on the wearing of masks in public the ECDC advice is equivocal, with mask wearing seen as a way to protect others from infection, rather than protecting the wearer, saying there’s very little evidence how masks contribute to preventing infection from spreading.
“The wearing of masks may give a false sense of security but can only be seen as one measure that may contribute the fight against COVID, along with other advice.
“The ECDC has a leading role in monitoring and informing on the COVID19 crisis and it’s chief Dr Andrea Ammon spoke to us about the real chances of a second wave and urged us not to drop our guard just now.
“Europe has passed its peak but some EU countries are not showing improvements or a reduction in the rate of infections. For example, Bulgaria is seeing an increase in the rate of infections. And four countries are seeing no substantial changes - UK, Sweden, Poland and Romania.
“All the other EU member states, including Ireland, are seeing a substantial decrease in infections and this is welcome news but comes with caution, that any dropping of the guard now could lead to a reversal of progress and reinstating of restrictions,” the Midlands North West MEP, said.
MEPs were reminded by the ECDC that this virus is difficult to keep on top of as it can spread very easily and can be transmitted even when there are no symptoms.
On the use of apps to assist in tracking the virus, McGuinness added that the Director said that an app is not a silver bullet in contact tracing but is one tool that can help. However, she stressed that it was vital to keep the trust of citizens where an app is being used and that it met with data protection provisions. The app could also be made to be interoperable across borders.