A Drogheda-based GP has urged people not to lose sight of the progress made in the fight against Covid-19 so far, as the country looks ahead to the lifting of Level 5 restrictions next month in the lead up to a very different Christmas for the nation.
Dr Amy Morgan of Bryanstown Medical Centre in Drogheda said that subtle changes in behaviour had a “huge impact” and that simple social distancing, reducing contacts, mask wearing and hand washing were the key factors in the number of positive Coronavirus cases falling during the summer and early Autumn.
In a week that Ireland reached the wretched milestone of 2,000 Covid-19 related deaths and as positive cases began to trend upwards again – especially in Louth – the doctor urged people not to be discouraged by figures and to focus on “doing the basics.”
“It can be quite disheartening, especially when it looks like we’re making progress,” Dr Morgan told The Michael Reade Show on LMFM on Friday. “We have been making gains but it just goes to show how fragile this thing is. We know the sacrifices people have had to make to see a reduction in these numbers.
“Life isn’t on hold but we have to live our lives differently. It’s important we don’t get too disheartened or anxious, particularly coming up to Christmas. The virus isn’t behaving any way differently since we became familiar with it. It’s incredibly transmissible.
She added: “The gains are really hard won and very easily lost.”
The doctor said that news of breakouts in hospitals, and new cases in nursing homes such as the Oaklands Nursing Home in Listowel, were “concerning” adding that the increasing levels in the community meant it was becoming harder to protect vulnerable members of the community.
“It is important we all keep doing the basics. People have really been amazing in terms of how they have behaving. We can’t lose sight of where we’ve come and what we need to do to maintain that progress. It’s really important to remember what the basics are. Subtle changes in our behaviour have huge impacts. We know what works.”
There have now been 69,802 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland since March, with 2,018 people having lost their lives to the virus. In Louth, after a summer in which there were virtually no cases, the county has seen a vast increase in positive cases in recent weeks – despite the county and country being placed under Level 5 restrictions.
There were 330 new Covid-19 cases in Ireland as of midnight on Thursday, with 26 of those were in Louth, the third highest figure nationally. The county’s 14-day incidence rate now stands at 186.2, above the national average at 113.1
There has been 240 new cases in Louth in the 14 days to Thursday. Only Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Meath and Donegal have seen more.
In the four month period between May 1 and September 1, there were 157 new cases of Covid-19 detected in Louth. Since September 1 – there have been 1,131 cases.
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“In terms of the R rate and how sensitive it is, it really doesn’t take much,” Dr Morgan continued. “If people can just think about planning ahead and running a risk assessment in your head. Outdoors is better than indoors. It’s not always possible to work from home, but where possible people should do that. That is critical in terms of tracing the virus too.
“The numbers can fluctuate wildly over the course of a week. The virus is very unpredictable but we are all susceptible. It would appear a large amount of us are susceptible. It doesn’t recognise county borders, it doesn’t recognise that Christmas is coming.”
On the prospect of a Pfizer/Moderna vaccine forthcoming soon, she warned against complacency until the vaccine is made available in Ireland and rolled out.
“It’s not vaccines that work, it’s a vaccination programme,” Dr Morgan said.