Renowned for his forthright commentary on COVID-19, Professor Luke O’Neill’s message to employers during a recent one-hour webinar to Shannon Chamber member companies was to maintain good ventilation in their premises, follow the guidelines, observe spacing and ensure that staff adhere to frequent hand washing.
Advising companies to invest in ventilation devices, such as CO2 monitoring, Prof. O’Neill said the ventilation certifications could well be introduced in the future to ensure that the levels of CO2 in a room are maintained at a safe level.
Cautioning that the worst environment by far to work in was one with stagnant air, he advised employers to keep windows open to at least a five-inch level, and doors open to allow air to circulate.
“This will decrease the risk of infection nineteen fold,” he said.
A specialist in inflammatory diseases and with an interest in vaccines and infectious diseases, Prof. O’Neill said that the progress that has been made in developing COVID-19 vaccines was great for science, for academia, and for drug companies.
“While the production of vaccines is based on one-hundred years of science, and ten years’ work beforehand, it is a great example of many aspects of science getting their act together. In June 2020, we had no vaccine, now we have eight approved,” he so frankly stated.
“It is now critically important that vulnerable people receive their second vaccine as soon as possible,” he added, stating that people need to be protected against the newer variants now appearing.
Questioned on the potential of future lockdowns, Prof. O’Neill stated that the build-up of immunity among the public should remove the need for any further lockdowns.
“The good news is that we will come out of this but we have to accept that it may not exactly as it was before the pandemic,” he stated presenting an optimistic outlook for the future.
“Variants will still crop up but the fear will dissipate and once 80% of the population are fully vaccinated, society can fully open up. We will still need to be careful; it won’t be completely the way it was,” he stressed.
When asked about the safety of vaccines, his response was that the answer lies in the fact that 96% of all doctors in the US and Europe have now been vaccinated.
Looking ahead, Prof. O’Neill stated that the next challenges are tackling the new variants, getting people back to work in offices, and doing so safely.
“The virus spreads on infected air, that’s why distance, masks and good ventilation are so important,” he added.
Responding to questions on the need for booster vaccines, he predicted that it will be no different to the normal flu injection.
“In time, we could see COVID-19 and the flu injection combined in one shot. That would be the sensible thing to do. COVID-19 is not going to go away. We want it to be just like any cold or flu and once people are vaccinated, we will learn to live with it and the fear will dissipate. Every infectious disease is the same,” he added.
Having followed Prof. O’Neill’s commentary over the past year, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes said that his commentary on the webinar was both lively and very informative and that members took great interest in what he had to say and in the hope he gave them for the future.
“We can look forward to the next phase of re-opening the economy and a return to our offices before autumn, taking all the precautions outlined by Prof. O’Neill and adhering to Government protocol. It’s a more promising horizon than it was twelve months ago. Hearing this from Prof. O’Neill gives us all hope for the future,” added Ms Downes.