A group of Irish scientists has said Ireland is heading into a long-term "social and economic catastrophe" if it does not adopt a "zero-covid" policy.

The scientists have written to the Oireachtas special committee on Covid-19 response seeking a meeting. 

They say their proposal which they say is backed by science, experience and extensive analysis, should be considered at national political level, and there is only a small "and narrowing" window, in which to do this. 

In their letter, the scientists say there needs to be universal use of masks in enclosed spaces, more targeted finding of cases, testing, tracking and isolation as well as an effective and fair system of testing and isolating incoming travellers. 

The letter, to committee chairman, Michael McNamara, says Ireland should adopt a "Zero-Covid Island" policy - sharing experiences and ideas with Northern Ireland. 

The scientists say Ireland's aggressive lockdown policy was an appropriate emergency response to an emergency situation and worked.

But it says the direction of national policy is unclear. 

The current policy was to "live with the virus" the scientists say, with an implicit hope that a vaccine will be available soon. But they say vaccine experts suggest there may not be a vaccine available for the population until late next year at the earliest. 

The scientists say the main driver of damage to the economy is the virus itself and not the lockdowns or other restrictions. 

They believe many of the public understand and would support their policy.

They say Ireland has a choice to make - continue with the current approach which carried significant cost without a clear destination or take the 'Zero-Covid Island' approach which they say will be socially and financially beneficial. 

The letter is signed by Professor Anthony Staines, Professor of Health systems at DCU on behalf of the group.

The other members include Dr Gabriel Scalley, Dr Tomás Ryan of Trinity College, Professor Sam McConkey of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Professor Gerard Killeen of UCC.