Coronavirus could be seasonal and return in autumn even if the number of reported cases does decrease over summer, a professor has warned.
Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology at Trinity College Dublin has warned that if Covid-19 is a seasonal virus like the flu, it could return in the autumn.
He told Newstalk Breakfast in Ireland that while cases in Ireland have been steadily increasing, the decision to cancel St Patrick's Day celebrations to prevent the spread of Covid-19 was correct.
He said: "10 cases [reported in Ireland] yesterday was concerning. The numbers have been creeping up but 10 in one day was a big increase so we're heading in the direction of several hundred now in the next couple of weeks.
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"I suppose the more worrying part of it was that five of the cases yesterday were through local transmission rather than imported but the majority of the cases are imported cases and the majority of those are still in northern Italy.
"I suppose as well now that the government has finally decided to halt the flights to northern Italy that may stem further cases coming in from northern Italy but it won't of course stop local transmission."
He added: "I welcome the St Patrick's Day parade being cancelled. That was something that there was a lot of debate in the media about.
"There were going to be several hundred thousand people gathering and the risk is not hugely being outdoors, the risk of spreading is more close contact and being indoors.
"Also the fact that you were going to have a large number of people coming to Ireland for those parades from countries like Italy – but not just confined to Italy now.
"Countries like France, Germany and Spain, the numbers there are significantly increasing, well over thousands, so it's become a situation where it's not just Italy but other countries are also going to be considered high-risk areas."
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Prof Mills added that if the virus does turn out to be seasonal, there may not be a vaccine ready until winter 2021.
He said: "We don't know [if it will go on for a year]. If you think of a disease like influenza virus infection it's a seasonal disease where it comes in the autumn and it goes away in the spring and we don't have many cases during the spring and summer months.
"There is a possibility that Covid-19 might be the same, it might decline when the weather warms up – but it might not.
"If it does, it might come back in the autumn and we get another spell of it next winter but the hope is that we will have a vaccine ready.
"There are a number of vaccines that have been developed that are in testing but they're going to take about a year or maybe 18 months before anybody knows if they even work and could be licensed so we're not even talking about next winter, [it'll be the] following winter before we'll be ready, if it is a seasonal event."
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