Health Minister Simon Harris said that he is taking seriously the advice of disease expert Professor Sam McConkey who predicted there could be between 80,000 and 120,000 deaths in Ireland from coronavirus.

McConkey, head of the department of international health and tropical medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, told RTE that coronavirus “could be like the Spanish flu, the Irish Civil War and the 1929 stock market crash all at once.”

He predicted that in the worst-case scenario 80 percent of the population or four million people in the Republic could get the disease with a death rate of between two and three percent (80,000 to 120,000).

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Harris, in advance of a special Cabinet meeting on the disease, said, “Professor McConkey has a view and he has been clear in articulating it. He has said, and I agree with him, that this is a challenge which is going to require a whole of government and whole of society approach.

“The impact of this could go well beyond the health service, though it is primarily a health challenge. It could change the way temporarily all of us go about parts of our lives and it could impact our workplace, our schools, and our families.

“I am very confident that we have the best possible people working on this and we will continue to be guided by expert voices.”

McConkey, predicting the deadly spread of coronavirus, said, “The best metaphor that I can think of is the Spanish flu, mixed up with the Irish civil war, which was 100 years ago, mixed up with the 1929 stock market crash, all mixed up together at the same time.

“That sounds pretty bad, but this is an all-of-society response and requires an all-of-government response. I estimate there could be between 80,000 and 120,000 deaths.

“Coronavirus will have an effect everywhere. This is going to impact on every government department and every private industry and every citizen here in a very radical way.

“We’re in coronavirus land, a new world we haven’t been in before and we need to start adapting to that reality.  The first thing that we need in that is clear, good governance.”

McConkey said a cross-party approach in government is needed to lead Ireland out of the crisis.  There needed to be a re-allocation of around 5,000 public health workers to help out with contact tracing.

He said that is what happened in Wuhan in China and “that is how they controlled it.”

Meanwhile, Harris admitted there was a “moderate to high” possibility of Ireland following Italy, the worst coronavirus-affected country in Europe, in having a mass outbreak of coronavirus.

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