The part Kenny show on news talk with Marter private network during current restrictions. Don't ignore your health concerns. Our expert team is ready to help. Good morning to professor of biochemistry at Trinity College in Dublin, Luke O'Neill, Duke. Good morning. Good morning. How's it going? It's going very well. First of all, it looks like your reassurance about AstraZeneca, our last time we spoke will be reaffirmed by the EMA. But days have been lost.
They have. And we're waiting. I can't wait for this statement from the AMA all over Europe are all on the edge of our seats. We and it's looking very likely they'll give it. Cautiously optimistic is the great phrase, you know. No, but lots of organisations have come out and said keep using the vaccine. Kovacs is the latest. For example, they're giving hundreds of thousands of doses in the developing world. Everybody says that the benefits far outweighs the risk.
They might say, look, there is a risk of this, but it's tiny, you know, and so small that that doesn't justify not using the vaccine. That's one possibility, I guess. All right.
Now, life returning to normal. And in the U.K., they're actually planning for the reopening of football and festivals and pubs and all the rest of it. They've even kind of put a date on it when life will return to normal. But they're going to do a few experiments.
In the meantime, they are they've set up a special research group. This is one to be part of that to be very fun. It's called the Events Research Programme. And they're looking at the feasibility of reintroducing fans into sporting venues or into theatres or comedy clubs and all sorts, you know, and they planned to allow a match between Brighton and Chelsea in the stadium, which are two and a half thousand fans. And that was the plan, you know, but the that they're saying they want 10000 fans to go to the FA Cup and be in to be in Wembley to watch it on May 15th.
And then they start looking at the risk of that. Wembley is very good for this party because it has a 90000 capacity so you can spread people out of it, you know, and there's a massive walkways and loads of entrances. So they think it's going to be pretty safe to 10000 fans. Wouldn't it be great to attend the final? So this is a this is going to help us all. And then, of course, from that data, from that data, then they will then run the euro semi-finals are coming, remember, in the UK as well.
And maybe the final to full capacity on their July 11th is the final of the euro. So, again, they're going to use data from that study to see if it's a safe thing to do. So that they will be checking all of these things out. Now, I don't know ethically what the thing the detail here is. You invite a whole people along to a comedy club. Unless there's somebody, though, who is infected in the club, you know, might be an experiment that'll prove its worth at all.
And that's the problem.
Yeah, that's one issue with it. But still, the people to be tested beforehand, you know, and then test it afterwards and just see what happens. I kind of think they're going to watch them closely to see if they're mixing and mingling, too, in which one debate part the show. They serve alcohol at these things. And as you know, they often serve alcohol at comedy clubs and sporting events, and that might loosen then people's behaviour a bit, you know, so it's basically kind of a big experiment, I suppose, to see what happens.
But you're right, though. It's probably going to work, let's face it. But also going to look at the world snooker championships on April 17th, the Brit Awards on April 19th. Again, the let people in and then monitor it closely and just see if everything's fine, really. And of course, you can be optimistic because, as you say, they're not planting anybody in there with the infection, are they? So. So it's not as if that would be so.
But you never know. There could be people who would test negative and then, you know, you never know. They might be negative. It's all that kind of thing. So it's kind of a big feasibility study.
Yeah. And the difficulty is there may be slippage, of course, because there is a slight constriction of supply in the UK of vaccines. So they're talking about people might have to wait an extra three or four weeks to their promised date.
You know, people in their 50s, for example, who would be in the less risky cohort, might have to wait a bit longer in the UK. So there might be slippage there.
What do you make, Luc, just in passing of the numbers coming out of schools, you may have seen that they did 1800 ER tests in schools and in 108 schools and they've come up with quite a few cases. It's a bit worrying because the numbers, as revealed last night by the HSC, there's been a bit of an up turn in the numbers.
You know, the trend has been going down the last few weeks, but a little upturn again.
Yeah, that's probably because the new variant about the new transmissible variant, remember, is now the dominant variant all over Europe. And everything is either plateauing or cases are going up in Europe, you see, probably because of this increased transmissibility. Now, that would mean you've got to double down and all the public health measures, make sure you wear your mask and make sure your distance you see. So that's probably a reason why these numbers are are plateauing.
And, of course, that makes the AstraZeneca vaccine all the more important because we've got to get that really extensively used now to stop this, you see. So I think those school numbers are quite small still, but we'll keep an eye on it. I mean, if they climb and keep going up in schools and that might raise an issue obviously enough. Yeah.
I mean, the worry is that they're not testing enough 1800 tests in 108 schools, an average of 15 to 16 per school.
You could miss an awful lot. And when you go in that kind of thing, now let's move on to outdoor dining and drinking.
I mean, this is what the summer is promising to us. But you're saying be careful how you define or dining because it may not be so outdoor after all.
Well, the US, we're doing this in many places in the US didn't close by the and the restaurants are still open, you know, but they would often have an outdoor area just to help their customers. And of course, customers might go to the restaurant unless there was an outdoor area. So it's partly in response to their clientele, I suppose. But they study what they're giving guidelines, what the best outdoor structure is. And they've said, look, some of these igloos and bubbles outside.
And I say we're pretty hopeless because you will be inside that. You know, you don't you only go into your bubble with your family in a restaurant. The reason you want to go to a restaurant is to meet other people. Probably, you know, that kind of defeats the purpose. But but they've issued guidelines. Two sides are great outdoors, you know what I mean? Like a kind of a lean to type thing and two sides are open.
That's the recommendation that if three sides in the structure make sure there's good little air vents in the openings to allow the breeze as ever, it's all about ventilation, you know, but there are good guidelines now how to open a venue outdoors to keep it safe. You know, and in America, of course, the sales of space heaters as the car went up massively because these are cold places, you know, special heater technology is now being deployed in these outdoor arrangements.
And they are pretty safe. If you if you follow those guidelines, they're pretty safe, you know. Yeah.
Now, the idea some people have these bubbles or igloo type things, and that's fine if you're within your own family bubble, for example, and you all go out for dinner, that's fine. But the waiter's coming in and out, and even with his mask on, he pops into your bubble and breathes. So you've got to be careful. You're not entirely isolated from the outside world. And also, who was in the bubble before you? Has it been well ventilated and evacuated in terms of its oxygen content in between sittings, those kind of things?
Take a look, there's a risk of that spreading it, so but again, there's guidelines about the service and that what they should do, you know, to avoid spreading the virus, I guess. But by far and away as there's these two side arrangements are really good.
Now, let's talk about therapeutics and an update from Eli Lilly.
Yeah, this is good. On Friday, they really their data on these antibody therapies, as we've discussed before, you can use antibodies themselves as therapies, of course, and have a combination of Bundall animal. And it's a of terrible name. But these two antibodies combined decrease hospitalisation and death by 87 percent in the trial, which is tremendous. You know, and the M.A, our friends yet again, and they're reviewing it to approve it in Europe and then GSK of an antibody as well, and they got 85 percent decrease in hospitalisation.
And so these are seen as really promising. Now, there are different vaccines because they're much more expensive. That's one issue with them, you know, but they could be used in certain situations where you haven't got a vaccine. There's some problem with the vaccine, you know, so yet again, it's two really good therapies to prevent, you know, severe disease, as other studies show.
Now, obviously, when we're all vaccinated, the market for these kind of things will go down. So they will remain expensive. They're not going to be kind of a global treatment for covid-19.
That's right. And the company said that they realise now that, you know, this is a tricky one because the vaccines should mean that you may need these, but they will be kind of a backup, I guess, for us in various ways. So it's good to have them.
Now, here's an intriguing one that you've told me about. People might be more infectious at different times of the day.
Yeah, that's right, yeah, they did a big test on this, 31000 people that took samples from people who were infected and then measured the amount of virus on the swab test. You know, and to their surprise, they found that a 2:00 p.m. is when your light is the most infectious. Now, they said that was like a surrogate because the level of the virus in the soil basically at 1pm was very low levels in the morning and very low levels at night.
You know, so it seems that the rhythm to the level of the virus in your system. And of course, what that would suggest is if you're a vulnerable person, they've said this in the report, but do your shopping in the morning, you know, because you're less likely to meet people who are infectious. It's strange of I don't know why this is that must be something to do with the virus having some kind of circadian rhythm, as we call it.
But it does seem to vary across the day how infectious someone would be.
And here's an interesting question. Please, please explain bubbles in the context of Colvert.
Half of Dublin is in four or five different bubbles a year on. And people, including Frontline, as I know, are in more bubbles than a bavaro.
Exactly. Well, a bubble is really your family. That's called about the people you live with in your house. You know, that is your bubble. And we sadly at the moment, we can't have bubbles mixing. But any good thing is a bubble. The outdoors, it's a bit safer, I suppose, as usual. But a bubble is your failure for your immediate period with your bubble.
You may not know the answer to this, but one of our newstalk listeners wants me to ask you. And Mallo says, can you ask Luke, are we in Ireland training sniffer dogs to detect covid-19 as in the UK? And they are ready to go on the streets and airports very soon? That would be a game changer for detecting covid. You know, instead of all this, have you been vaccinated, etc.. Show me your PCR test that you had three days ago in which actually is irrelevant.
Three days after you've got a dog and the dog says, yeah, he's gone. Exactly. Yeah, yeah.
That was first out of Finland. I mean, this is before that. But the first evidence and they got really good evidence that dogs can sniff covid. So they use in airports, in various countries, you see just like sniffer dogs for drugs, I guess. But it's a good question. I don't know the answer. I mean, it's interesting the UK are doing that then it sounds like, you know, and there's no doubt these dogs can definitely pick up a positive case like, oh, that's so.
So they could be yet another weapon to use to track down who's infected.
John and Dublin asks, could you ask if we should be swabbing or taking blood samples from everybody who comes in for a vaccine to test people for covid antibodies so we can find out just how many people in the country have had covid they've been doing that?
Yeah, I mean, that's called a zero prevalence study. We know that, by the way, to see how one percent of the population have been, you know, infected by Cobh and that's ongoing. I'm not sure how extensive it is in Ireland, but other countries are doing that for definite just to get the percent of people who've been infected, especially with these numbers, part of of infection, protecting you against reinfection that kind of measurement becomes all the more important for, you know, natural infection is protective.
And that, again, that makes the fear go away a bit. You think there is no zero risk environment regarding schools?
The evidence shows that schools need to remain open for the children's welfare. The emphasis, therefore, should be on serial testing like other countries to ensure they remain open. That's from moire. Well, I quoted the numbers. There are 800 tests and 108 schools. It's not exactly comprehensive like they have planned in and the UK.
So are we playing with fire here?
Well, I mean, it's so important to keep the schools open and that person is not far away. Is this risk of infection from the school? Again, you're trying it's it's like it's like the identical question. You know, you do one thing and you increase risk of something else, you know? So there's no question the schools have to stay open for loads of different reasons. And there will be a threshold, though, if the level of infections in schools climbs, let's face it, stuff becomes an issue.
Doesn't it go to the testing is the way out of it, of course, because you can just send the kids home in the classroom are definitely, you know, in fact, have indicated he will open. So I think that should be something that should definitely be looked at.
Now, look, what is your take on on this green certificate that the EU is proposing? I mean, there are three elements to your qualification for a green certificate. One is that you've been vaccinated. That seems to me to be absolutely fair enough.
The other is if you can prove that you've got covid-19 antibodies and that would have to be a medical procedure to show you've got that.
And then the third is proof that you've been vaccinated, that you've had a clear test. I mean, the clear test is the one I'd worry about.
Well, that's right. Yeah. The real bouts and races in a sense there, because why would you measure the two? I mean, it's in the vaccine, Flo's antibodies. So this is an interesting one. Again, I think I know what they want.
It's either ah, look, it's either or you know, if you've had the vaccine, you get your green search. If you can prove you have antibodies to covid-19, you get you think you don't have to have the two things done at all. But the third one is you've just had a test and that could be three days before. And who knows, you've picked it up.
I, I just don't know why they're doing that. And it seems to be something to do with not one. To appear to discriminate against those who have neither been vaccinated nor have they got antibodies to covid-19 because it could be that.
I think what's funny about it, they're trying to get ahead of the curve there because some countries are going to allow travel. Remember that like Greece, for instance, you know, so it may differ. That's why the EU has to coordinate this as ever. The EU is going to hopefully give us the guidelines as to what to do to allow green zones and travel between them to come when we need a very clear directive of the job of the E.U., I think, to be honest, because otherwise it's a ragbag mix of different things.
Now, here's a conundrum.
How do you know that you're not a transmitter? I was very unwell over Christmas. Flawed.
I work in a hospital, had several PCR tests. All were negative then an antibody test, which was positive and showed I had antibodies and therefore I had had covid-19 all around me, such as my parents, colleagues, etc., negative and happily. Well, then seven of us had the vaccine and I was the one that didn't get a reaction. Can you explain?
Look, it's very variable. This is the truth of it. People who differ the state your immune system is in when you get infected. You take the vaccine could differ between people. But the one thing we're learning about is this more transmissible one. If that's in your house, lots of people pick it up off you, you know, because it's much more transmissible, whereas the old version, if you will, with less transmissible, if you don't have houses where one person was positive and never infected anybody.
And I'm often asked, how can that be? And it's simply because other people's immune systems are slightly stronger or a bit of bad luck if you cough over someone when you're highly infectious one day, that kind of thing, you know, but it's more transmissible. One does seem to spread more amongst people. All right, well, we look forward to an open alfresco dining experience in the summer and hopefully we get another vaccine delivered there, talking about in the EU 360 million vaccines in the next quarter, which would give us something over three million, which would get a lot of us done, at least the first shot.
So let's hope that's the case anyway. Look, we'll catch up with you on Thursday, and I'm sure there'll be more science news on the coronavirus and it's at therapeutics and so on.
Luke O'Neil, professor of biochemistry at Trinity College in Dublin, thank you very much for joining us.