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'If your actions are helping to spread the virus, you’re not helping the country': St Vincent's doctor issues stark warning

Dr Paddy Mallon has outlined a grim scenario that Ireland will face if people don’t take the containment strategy seriously.

Image: Leah Farrell

AN INFECTIOUS DISEASES expert has issued a stark warning to Irish people who are not obeying social distancing rules and are not taking the threat of the Covid-19 illness seriously.

Dr Paddy Mallon, who is a Consultant in Infectious Diseases at St Vincents University Hospital, said that everyone in Ireland needs to examine their actions and ask themselves if they are helping the country or if they are helping the coronavirus to spread.

“Every single person in this country needs to make two choices. They need to look at their actions and say ‘does my action help with limiting the spread of this virus or does my action help spread this virus’,” Dr Mallon told Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One.

If your actions are helping to spread this virus, then you’re not helping the country.

The physician cited playdates for children, people contemplating ‘Covid parties’ and restaurants and offices with large concentrations of people as examples of activities that act in the interest of the virus.

He outlined the grim scenario that some in Ireland will face in two weeks if people don’t take the containment strategy seriously.

“There was a report that I saw last week on the BBC of a guy in England whose brother was dying in Italy,” he explained.

He died in isolation. He died without his family around him. They were unable to have a funeral. That is the reality of what happens if we help the virus.
That is the reality that people need to be thinking about when they’re standing in queues for their coffee. When they’re standing in busy bars. When they’re having their birthday parties or when they’re having their Covid parties.
That is the reality of what you could be facing in two weeks by the actions you are taking now because you are helping the virus. And this virus does not care. It doesn’t care what impact it has on our society.

Dr. Mallon paid tribute to pub owners who made “huge sacrifices” by voluntarily closing over the weekend in the interest of the country.

The weekend saw a flurry of calls for pubs to be closed after video footage of large gatherings of people in a Dublin pub was widely shared online.

Many pubs across the country voluntarily shut their doors and the government subsequently told to all pubs to close until at least 29 March. 

Padraig Cribbin of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said the measure was necessary, but it will cause “extreme difficulty” for pub businesses.

This morning the Restaurants Association of Ireland called on the government to issue a directive ordering restaurants and cafes to close, saying that they will replace pubs as places where people will congregate.

This afternoon, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said it is “vital” that Irish people reduce their number of social contacts and maintain two meters from people in shops and restaurants over the next week.

He issued a list of other actions people must take to ‘flatten the curve’ of transmission in Ireland. The other actions are:

  • Stop shaking hands or hugging when you say hello
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Wash your hands regularly and practice cough and sneeze hygiene
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Check on your vulnerable family members and neighbours
  • Work from home where possible

Dr Mallon said St Vincents University Hospital in Dublin has been transformed as part of efforts to combat the disease.

“St Vincent’s Hospital already looks incredibly different to how it looked last Monday… The whole hospital has been reconfigured to cope with this crisis and we will continue to react,” he said.

The expert said that the lesson from China, Singapore and South Korea, who have successfully wrestled the virus under control, is that the effectiveness of Ireland’s efforts to tackle the illness will be dictated by how seriously everyone in the country takes it.

He outlined that he believes the numbers of cases in Ireland will peak about two weeks after everyone buys in to the containment strategy and then they will start to fall.

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Ceimin Burke

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