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[00:00:00]

The Irish Times reports today on their front page that there've been 55 cases of covid-19 linked to sport in the month of August, but there have been about two and a half thousand confirmed covid cases in the last month here. So the question being asked again today is, are the restrictions on spectators at sports events justified or were joined? In a moment by professor is Kingston Mills and Anthony Steen's. But first, David Brady, former male footballer, is on the line now.

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David, what do you make of these numbers today? What does it say to you about the restrictions on spectators?

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Hi, Claire. I suppose and I know there seems to be an expert. We have two eminent experts to comment on. But I think what I am an expert on is how much sport plays a part in our Irish community. And I do think no matter what we do in life right now, we're not going to have a zero 55 cases. And everyone's going to simplify to many what is a very, very, very small proportion of the general numbers.

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And again, I suppose it's as if it's a case where sport needs to be behind closed doors. Our sport needs to be closed down. The experts will identify that, I think, from the normal man on the street and a sporting context right across the country. And I would say my deep a zeer the work and that the facilitating of a safe environment in the sporting context, from the point of view in local clubs right across the country, every single corner of this island has acted against hundreds of them.

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And I think they have done unbelievably well. And given that number right at 55, it's been linked back to sport. But in a general context, I think what sport is one of the most important facets of our of our cultural identity, but also as a community and as a people. And I think it's massive that will protect us. We would be led by experts. But I do think, though, that not having spectators. At a sporting event outdoors, maybe we'd have to put restrictions, maybe people will have to travel on their own or a family project, and you can't travel with a neighbor or a stranger, but have something outdoors in an outdoor environment where there's proof that the spread is less and the virus is less active outdoors.

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Well, when the restrictions were introduced and David, you'll remember Dr. John Glenn said, you know, it's about the socializing afterwards. It's about how you get to the game and sharing of life. So it might not necessarily be what's happening on the picture, on the sideline. It's about what's happening either side of that. That's where the concerns lie.

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Exactly. And you want to mitigate it to things. Do travel on our list of the games. You go on your own are you go with your father or your goal with your family. That's what you were doing in our houses. And there should be no socializing in any way, shape or form after a football game. But let me tell you my top to bottom last evening, which is playing in the coaches, and we say that we have to want to cultivate more than 30 years of our archrivals, not for which we bought or each other.

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It's we're joined as we go to school with each other. What we play we play football like there's no tomorrow. We're playing this weekend. And unfortunately, there will be Berlin and there will be seven or 10 points that people will congregate and like to try and watch the game, what the tempo is for and who's broadcasting the game or how will they get to see it in the pub.

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It's you know what?

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It's very important that all games are broadcasters and you linked to in from your television, from your laptop. The games are being streamed because it's the same as going for a meal. You're there for your hour and five minutes. The game is all at that time. That's not that. And that's that's definitely not the environment to be watching sport that we can facilitate the six or seven hundred people that will be in the pubs about an hour, probably on Sunday.

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But we could that here, too. My point is we're on an island that's 400 times more people are allowed to go to a game in an hour than there is a minute.

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Okay. Will you stay with us? Because I want to bring in, as you say, we have experts with us and Professor Anthony Stevens is with us now. When you see these numbers, Professor Stevens, 55 cases linked to sport out of a total of about two and a half thousand for the month.

[00:04:31]

Can you understand where David and people like him are coming from? I can. But A, I think the number of Kastelein sport is a lot higher than I thought it would be. And it's high enough to be quite worrying from my point of view. I mean, our fundamental problem is we have effectively uncontrolled community transmission. And unless we bring that under control, we are going to have continuing problems. At the moment, our biggest challenge is opening our schools and I would be very concerned that we could have outbreaks in 40 or 50 schools in the next couple of weeks if we don't bring neurotransmission transmission down further.

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And from where I said managing schools and get the schools open is absolutely the central plank of policy right now.

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And then when you hear what David says about the county final at the weekend and the fact that it's going to be streamed to the pubs and people might be having their chicken and chips, but there could be a lot of people in those pubs watching that game. There could be a safer arguably in the open air on the sideline of the pitch.

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I think there could be that that is true. The problem with that is there are probably 100 different sports played in Ireland, all at many different levels. And you would need different regulations for all of them that the rules for, you know, an all Ireland final in Croke Park are not going to be the same as the rules for a club match between 250 and clubs into adjoining parishes in player. That's just inevitable. But you end up with a book of rules, which is the size of a telephone book.

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It's hard to make the rules consistent as it is. And people have been pointing out inconsistencies and differences between different rules for different settings. But if you tried to do that for every sport in the country, you would be in a hiding to nothing.

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Okay. I want to bring in Professor Kingston Mills, who's with us as well, professor of Experimental Immunology at Trinity College, Dublin, Kingston. You're very welcome. Thank you for being with us. Where do you stand on this?

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Okay. Good morning. First of all, I think it's important to say that Ireland is not in a great place right now in terms of international numbers per 100000. We're probably one of the worst countries in Europe after Spain and France. So, you know, the research is really has been sort of a wake up call that we need to buy in again to the government measures and the public and the sports clubs need to buy into the measures to to restrict contact, et cetera.

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Coming to the specific question about about these 55 cases, there's very scant details of how these. We've arrived. I don't know whether they're actually as a result of sporting events at all in that are the sports people who were who got the contract by playing sport, the spectators that were at sporting events? Probably not whether spectators that were in pubs watching sporting events. So, you know, those days it can be very misleading and not really get the true picture of whether it is, in fact, sports contributing to this or it's just happened to be sports people that corporate that got covid-19 coming to your point, which is a very valid one.

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And I completely agree with David Brady on this. And the other points that you made to Anthony, you know, is it safer for 50 or 100 spectators to go down to the two pubs in the local parish and watch the streaming of the event? Or it's safer to be in the stadium? It's absolutely, emphatically safer to be in the stadium. And if that's properly controlled and regulated by the clubs and the clubs and have a big part to play in this in terms of implementing the safety procedures, of making sure people that are outside family groups or distance everybody is wearing a mask that is a much safer activity than watching it in your home with a group of friends.

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I know they're supposed to be restricted to sex in homes, but in pubs it's not. And that's that's then actually. In fact, the restrictions are making it more conducive to the spread of the virus than the other way around as they stand, in my view.

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And David, to come back to you, I mean, you said there that, you know, the work that the game has put in to protect people.

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And it is and again, this is from a local and association point of view, whether it is from the temperature monitoring point of view, from decontamination or boards before or during the games, everyone has a designated water bottle. You call your train go. That is the modus operandi of the Geet Association from a club perspective in your car, you go on the train and you go home.

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But that's different from how spectators will be managed. Well, look at from a spectator's point of view, and Professor Mills stated that we don't really know the true full picture of the 55 cases or from a spectator point of view. And it's like this I can't see I can see more than 200 people in any sporting event over the next few months. But from a spectator point of view, you have you'll have people we should have stricter rules from spectators going against what the rules will help one thing mitigate mitigate the right.

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And again, if it's if it's.

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But isn't it very, very hard and I don't know why there are two experts might have a view on this if you were to put restrictions in place around how spectators behave before and after it. That's very difficult to police where saying you can't have spectators as I'm at a match, that's much easier to to put in place.

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And I think there's no question here. It's I think it's easier to to put in place regulations than you might think. I mean, certainly if you move the spectators away from the pubs to the actual stadium, then you are reducing risks if you regulate their movement in and out of the stadium, if you if you place them in positions, especially in the large stadium where they're well apart and you have measures where you ask people, I think most people would buy into this not to come in large groups to the stadium, not to go to the pub afterwards.

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And I think the players as well have a role to play in this. Like if you have some high profile players who come out and ask the public to buy into the measures that are supporting them to support their game, I think that would be a very important message that could could come from from the clubs as well as from the public.

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Any signs, do you think it could be managed in that way?

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I think it could, but I think it's very difficult. I think the players have a role to play, which is perhaps wider, which is reaching into younger audiences. There's a significant audience in the country who don't read papers, don't listen to radio, who engage in social media. And I think the players have a huge role. There are many of them have been incredibly constructive. But until we can get community transmission down significantly, I don't see it being practical to reopen sporting events because it just becomes too complicated.

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I can produce rules for one particular event or another particular event. We're producing general rules that cover the gamut of sporting events is almost impossible.

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Do you see sport as an essential activity?

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Yes, sport is incredibly important, both from physical health and maintaining mental health. It's a great social. It's great, too, for socialization. So we have to maintain sport. We have to support it in every way we can. And the best way to do that is to bring down circulation of the virus in the community. And my colleagues would argue that we should bring it down and then bring it down further to zero. But we all agree.

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But we should bring it down sharply. I mean, I was struck yesterday as I as I was driving home, and this doesn't differ from what David was just saying there. You know, the number of jobs with hoardings outside that said live matches. I mean, it is such a striking anomaly, isn't it?

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It is. And it is about managing the public properly, because if we don't manage the new regulations that they have been brought in to regulate, pubs are really welcome because although most pubs are absolutely adhering to the rules. Yeah.

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And I'm not saying they're doing anything wrong, by the way. I'm just pointing out that that does seem to be a glaring anomaly.

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Yes, I agree as a proportion of clubs are misbehaving seriously, and they need to be really managed and regulated properly.

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Who wants to come in there? Just makes you question how important is sport? I've had the honor over the last four months of talking to people that are in their 60s, 70s and 80s that I would have to say I never realized how important sport not just to not just rugby, not just soccer, but how important sport is to people's lives. And it's sometimes it's not about to go on the points overtreat. It's about the conversation that it develops and allows people to communicate on a level that we all know about.

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It's it's a simple level. What it's a conversation that I have to say has blown me away, that the importance of sport, we have it. No, we don't need to be greedy. We need to protect it in all circumstances. But we need to we need to. I think the country does. The experts does. I think the government needs to realise again and align with what's right for people that sport is a major concern about life.

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And on it, we've lost so many people getting in touch with us on this. Mike says, I feel sports fans are being hard done by what happens if we haven't got a vaccine in two years time.

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Do we still keep supporters locked out? I think there is there is a risk we want to have vaccine in two years time. I hope I hope it doesn't happen. I hope we have a vaccine in the middle of next year, but I don't believe that we will have it before the middle of next year. So I think we we know we have focus on the schools right now. That has to be the priority for the next Prolene month or so and start the conversation about bringing back or spectators at sports.

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How do we do it? How do you do it safely? And Roland, Leon has suggested he's very happy to talk to the sporting organisations who know much more about how to do it safely than anyone like me would know. So I think start our conversation now. But for the moment, we need to focus on the schools and maybe in early October we'll be in a different place.

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Kingston, do you agree with that? No, I don't. I think that if you looked at what happened at the weekend in Scotland rugby match between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and they had limited number of spectators in a large stadium, Murrayfield, and it was a very effectively regulated and controlled you could see around the stadium groups of obviously family members sitting together with masks. It looked really well organised. It can be done. It should be done here for the large stadia.

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I don't see any risk with it, quite frankly, over both the risk of sitting in the pub watching the match. Definitely no difference in the risks once it's properly regulated, especially the large stadiums different where you have, you know, a couple of hundred spectators lining a line of a small club match where they can't be kept apart so readily in a big stadium. There's no reason why in the FIFA for the Mattrick and Saracen's in three weeks time that you couldn't have 500 spectators there.

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Can you think of how much that would mean to Leinster to have that there and to Irish sport to to have some spectators at the events where the risks are, in my view, fairly minimal? I really think we we need to and we're talking now about music events of return to music events indoors. And again, you know, what's the difference between a music event with 50 people indoors and outdoors? The difference is enormous. The indoor transmission of the virus is vastly more and it's more conducive to indoor activities, much more conducive to transmission of the virus compared with outdoor.

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So if we're going to go back to music events indoors and I don't see it as properly regulated as a huge issue with that over over the pubs with why not have a small number of spectators at outdoor events?

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Well, Kingston Mills and Anthony Stevens, thank you for joining us. And David Brady. And listen, whatever happens, I hope you've a great game this weekend. Ballona against Namor. Despite the fact that you have no spectators, there are so many people getting in touch with us on this path. Says he thinks that we should insist there are no handshakes and hugging after games. What's happening on our TV screens is a very poor example and undermining what's being done in clubs every evening.

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Someone else past a local football pitch last Saturday night and the pitch was absolutely full of spectators, adults and children. No social distancing people are not adhering to restrictions. And Barbara has seen teams huddle together at half time. They were sweating. They had their arms around each other and their faces close together. Can they not stop doing this? Five one five one for your thoughts. And next on the program, we're going to look ahead to today's cabinet meeting where it's expected there'll be a discussion on Phil Hogan's replacement as EU commissioner.

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Text five one, double five one today with Clare Byrne on Archie Radio one.