Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG)
A Better Way Forward: Towards A Zero-COVID Island
Welcome to the ISAGCOVID19.org page. The Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) for COVID-19 are a voluntary and independent expert group from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and abroad, advocating a SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID19) elimination strategy for the island of Ireland. ISAG was formed by scientists across the island of Ireland to achieve this objective, to offer a way forward and hope that our society and economy can function normally. We believe that this strategy should be informed by science, and developed openly with people living on the island through discussion. ISAG's experts feature regularly in the global media discourse on COVID-19 science and via INSIGHT @ISAGCOVID19 a series of publicly informed town hall discussions. Details of both can be found in our Media Centre and ISAG Events section. Membership is open and we include public health, economics, data analytics and communications among our expertise. Details of current members can be found in our Meet the Team section. If you have any queries or would like to join or support the group, please do not hesitate to contact us.
WATCH INSIGHT @COVID19
"Looking at COVID-19 through the Numbers: Everything you need to know about the data and how the future depends on targeted COVID-19 responses"
Streamed Monday 19th October at 3pm
A MUST VIEW!
"Looking at COVID-19 through the Numbers: Everything you need to know about the data and how the future depends on targeted COVID-19 responses."
Full video of ISAG's second town hall meeting, Monday October 19th 2020, with discussions and insight into the recent rise in cases and how the data inform Ireland's strategic responses. Featuring ISAG experts Prof Helen Dolk, Dr Paul Dempsey and Dr Philipp Hoevel, we were delighted with the interest and participation.
WHO WE ARE
Lead by Professor Anthony Staines, Dublin City University, we are a voluntary and independent expert group from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and abroad, advocating a SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID19) elimination strategy for the island of Ireland. The prospect of further illness, deaths and long-term consequences from COVID-19 in the coming months, and possibly years, is unacceptable. We therefore, urge the Irish and Northern Irish governments to adopt a COVID-19 strategy with the overarching objective of eliminating the virus from Ireland. We believe that this strategy should be informed by science, and developed openly with people living on the island through discussion. Achieving elimination of community transmission would allow all social distancing measures to be lifted, health services to remove visiting and service restrictions, schools to be fully open, arts and cultural events to function, the hospitality and entertainment industries to re-open fully, revitalisation of the economy and a sense of much needed normality for the population. It would allow the elderly and vulnerable to fully participate in our society. ISAG membership is open and we include public health, economics, data analytics and communications among our expertise. Based on our expert opinion and that of published scientific work, we believe that the strategy we propose is achievable. Entitled, 'A Better Way Forward: Towards a Zero-COVID Island,' the values and key elements can be read in Our Strategy section and by clicking the image below.
“ The prospect of further illness, deaths and long-term consequences from COVID-19 in the coming months, and possibly years, is unacceptable. We therefore, urge the Irish and Northern Irish governments to adopt a COVID-19 strategy with the overarching objective of eliminating the virus from Ireland. We believe that this strategy should be informed by science, and developed openly with people living on the island through discussion. ”
Prof Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems, ISAG Founder
WHAT WE DO
WHAT IS THE INDEPENDENT SCIENTIFIC ADVOCACY GROUP (ISAG) FOR COVID-19?
We are a cross disciplinary expert group, lead by Anthony Staines, Professor of Public Health Systems, Dublin City University who are working together to provide independent scientific advice to the government and public on how to minimise deaths and infections and reopen our economy and society safety through an elimination plan to support Ireland's and Northern Ireland's recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. The groups combined expertise includes public health, science, communications and data analytics disciplines that are essential in response management of public health emergencies. Visit our Meet the Team section to access information on individual group members.
IS ISAG GOVERNMENT AFFILIATED?
No. ISAG is independent of government. All the experts involved are doing this as unpaid voluntary work. They all commit hours of their time every week to discuss the COVID-19 science that underpins the Irish and Northern Irish government’s response strategies. We have a commitment to transparency of communications and share our work openly with both the government and public. We believe openness and transparency leads to better understanding and better decision making. We also believe it the responsibility of scientists and those with specialist knowledge to engage with the public and policy makers, in order to ensure that science benefits all of society.
WHAT ARE ISAG'S ACTIVITIES?
Since the first meeting in July of this year, ISAG has produced reports that can be accessed in our Reports Section answered questions relating to COVID-19 science, from the public, journalists and broadcasters and presented our elimination strategy for the Island of Ireland to the Irish government via the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response debate on Thursday, 13 August 2020 ( full debate transcript here) and Wednesday, 23 September 2020. Members of the group assist with media activities and social media. For up to date media coverage visit our Media Centre. The group are active on the following social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The ISAG Events Section provides details of INSIGHT @ISAGCOVID19 a series of publicly informed town hall discussions addressing COVID19 science and responses.
ISAG WEBINAR ARCHIVE
WATCH INSIGHT @COVID19
"Ireland's Response to COVID19: Herd Immunity, Elimination or Something in Between?"
Full video of ISAG's first town hall meeting, Monday October 5th 2020, with discussions and insight into Ireland's COVID-19 responses and the Government announcement that they would be rejecting NPHET'S advice on moving to level 5. Featuring ISAG experts Prof Aoife McLysaght, Prof Gerry Killeen and Prof Sam McConkey, we were delighted with the interest and participation.
1. The prospect of further illness, deaths and long term consequences from COVID-19 in the coming months, and possibly years, is unacceptable.
2. Achieving elimination of community transmission would allow all social distancing measures to be lifted, health services to remove visiting and service restrictions, schools to be fully open, arts and cultural events to function, the hospitality and entertainment industries to re-open fully, revitalisation of the economy and a sense of much needed normality for the population. It would allow the elderly and vulnerable to fully participate in our society.
3. The economic cost of the pandemic is driven primarily by the persisting prevalence of the virus rather than by the restrictions needed to eliminate it. Elimination as soon as possible is therefore crucial for the health of the Irish economy, particularly those sectors most hard-hit.
4. Only participatory strategic planning for COVID-19 elimination over the next 12 months will realise our vision – to fully re-open our domestic economy.
5. Our objective is to return to, improve upon, and sustain, where we were in summer 2020.
6. Zoning (into counties or other areas) will facilitate local populations to reduce incidence of the virus, whether independently of each other, or together.
7. Testing is crucial to the close monitoring of infections along with a strong and effective find/test/trace/isolate/support infrastructure.
8. Working from home where possible is an important aspect of keeping the working population as apart from each other as possible, thus reducing the potential spread of the virus.
9. Entry controls at ports and airports are required alongside the local elements outlined above.
10. A co-operative approach between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, along with sharing of information, experience and strategic planning with other countries who have adopted an elimination strategy, will help to shorten the time to achieve our goal.
This section highlights common and reasonable objections that are often made when a Zero COVID strategy is suggested
ALL THE THINGS YOU DESCRIBE ARE IMPERFECT
No single measure is perfect, but major epidemics are regularly dealt with by combining many imperfect tools – we don’t need perfect, just good enough.
WE CAN’T CLOSE THE BORDERS
Agreed, but we can test, isolate, and follow up at our ports and airports. Northern Ireland may well decide to test travellers from outside the CTA, and that’s fine.
THE ECONOMIC DAMAGE OF THIS APPROACH IS UNAFFORDABLE
To that we make two responses:
a. The economic damage of rising and falling rates of COVID19 is now quite clear. Many businesses that squeaked through to June, when we last had low rates of COVID19 are not going to survive the second wave, never mind the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th waves. Living with the virus has real, evident and unending costs.
b. The economic evidence, such as it is, says that the economic damage in different jurisdictions is mostly related to the level of circulating virus, rather than the response to that from the government.
THERE’LL BE MORE CASES
The virus will come back. This is almost certainly true, but the key is that it will come back in a controlled way. For example, New Zealand and China have both been hard hit by well-documented new outbreaks of COVID19. However, these have been controlled with local actions, other parts of the country were not seriously affected, and both countries are committed to learning how to reduce the frequency of new outbreaks in the future.
HANDLING FUTURE OUBREAKS
Aggressive and active finding, testing, tracing, and isolation is key to this. When a country or region has it’s Green zone status compromised by new cases, it does not need to restart the entire process. Temporary restrictions may be required for only a few weeks to bring a local outbreak under control.
PEOPLE ARE FED UP, AND WON’T DO THIS
People did accept much worse – the 2km travel limit, because they could see the benefits. People are worried now, because they see no end coming and the rising daily cases. If we give them a destination, Zero COVID, and give them responsibility, we are confident that the Irish people will support this.
MEET THE TEAM
Investment Risk Management and Quantitative Analysis
Co-Director, He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme; Director, Health Environment Infection Research Unit, and Co-Director, Public Health Summer School, Department of Public Health, University of Otago Wellington, New Zealand
ISAG have published a number of reports regarding COVID-19 responses that are based on the the most up to date research and our group members expertise in the disciplines that underpin public health emergency responses.
In our Media Centre, you’ll find articles and the latest updates on the work of the ISAG Group. The attention of these articles draw is one of the best resources we have for getting information out there about our strategy to eliminate COVID-19 from the island of Ireland.
'We face Christmas lockdown unless we up restrictions' - expert
October 08, 2020
TOO LITTLE TOO LATE: Coronavirus- Ireland ‘three months too late’ to stop virus spread as Level 4 and 5 ‘inevitable’, top prof reveals
October 07, 2020
Dr Gabriel Scally rejects Leo Varadkar’s dismissal of all-island Covid strategy
October 07, 2020
Professor Sam McConkey: Prepare for Levels 4 and 5, yesterday just delayed the inevitable.
October 06, 2020
We are part of a multidiscipline, voluntary and international approach to eliminating COVID-19 and partner with scientists from institutions across the globe.
EndCoronavirus (ECV) is an international volunteer coalition of over 4,000 scientists from Harvard, UCLA, MIT and other leading institutes, community organisers, citizens, business owners and individuals. Operating since February 29, 2020, starting at their parent organization, the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) develop effective, community-based solutions to end COVID-19. ECV offers guidelines for policymakers, businesses and individuals and advocacy, guidance and recommendations.
PARTNERSHIPS - INDEPENDENTSAGE.ORG
It is vital to eliminate COVID-19 we form partnerships and collaborate with our neighbouring experts in the UK. Independent SAGE is a group of scientists who are working together to provide independent scientific advice to the UK government and public on how to minimise deaths and infections and support Britain’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
INFORMATION AND ADVICE ON COVID-19
All the current information and advice on COVID-19 from HSE.ie to help keep you safe and well including :
How to protect yourself and others
Testing and contact tracing
People at higher risk
Managing coronavirus at home
Staying well during coronavirus
Parents and carers
Download the contact tracing app