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Warning that Republic will follow North's Covid-19 trend without 'radical' change in behaviours this week

Dr Mary Favier said the health service here faces a greater challenge due to resourcing deficiencies.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

THE PUBLIC HAS been warned that a failure to reduce social contacts and activities this week and over the weekend will result in Covid-19 transmission levels similar to those seen in Northern Ireland in recent days.

Schools will be closed for two weeks and pubs and restaurants for four weeks in Northern Ireland under new restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 transmission.

Dr Mary Favier, Covid-19 advisor to the Irish Council of General Practitioners (ICGP) and a member of NPHET, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that GPs have come under pressure in recent weeks due to the increased demand for testing referrals. 

She said while there has been some levelling off in Dublin under Level 3 restrictions, it is “not enough”.

“We’ve seen it in our public health and tracing services really unable to keep up with the sheer numbers – through no fault of their own, just the sheer numbers. So we need to do something different.”

Dr Favier said the Republic is “in a more difficult situation than the North” because of resourcing deficiencies in our health system.

“We’re short about 600 GPs, we’re short any number of hospital beds and nurses, we’re short public health specialists, we have been for so many years,” she said.

“General practitioners and the general medical profession have been saying for a number of weeks that more needs to be done. This virus inevitably gets worse. It doubles in size every week to two weeks, and it has an inevitable knock on to our health services. So we need to do something different.

“That’s either we change our behaviours under the current restrictions or we change the restrictions, and there is little time now to decide.”

She said when people changed their behaviours to bring transmission down in March, April and May, they “got their shoulders to the wheel”, but now there is complacency. 

“The difficulty is the health services now are now running a marathon, not a sprint,” she said.

“There have to be decisions made by the government to change how we’re managing this disease. Unless we see some radical differences in behaviour over the next few days or week, I think we’re going to be in a situation like the North – our border counties say it.”

She said people still have an opportunity today and over the weekend to make a difference by cutting their numbers of close contacts and doing more outdoors.

We need to ask employers to say staff need to work from home, if at all possible. It appears that a lot of people are still going out to work when they should ideally be working from home, we ask people not to travel unless they absolutely have to, not to go to the gym, all those types of sport activities -  don’t do them unless you have to -  if you’re meeting a friend pick up a cup of coffee and walk rather than sit somewhere within six feet. It’s the small activities that will make a difference.

Also speaking to Morning Ireland today, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said:

“There is no doubt looking at the very aggressive level of transmission of the virus right across the North that additional measures have to be taken”.

She said it “makes absolute sense” to have an all-Ireland approach to the pandemic and the way the numbers in the Republic are growing “we’re probably about a week or maybe ten days at most behind the North” in terms of transmission.

McDonald said she has not seen any great evidence that the levels of transmission in Dublin has dropped after more than three weeks at Level 3.

I’ve been really concerned to hear the news from many of our nursing homes, we know what happened last spring, we agreed that it was an absolute scandal what happened, we also said it wouldn’t happen again. I am very concerned that we are looking again at absolute heartbreak and trauma across our nursing homes. So we need to assess these things and we need to act.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar this morning acknowledged that while the rate of growth in Dublin had slowed, “that’s not good enough”.

“We would have preferred to see that fall,” he said.

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Tomorrow the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will meet to discuss the latest modelling data and Varadkar said this “will help us frame decisions”.

He said the Taoiseach will be in Brussels on Friday for a meeting with the European Council so decisions may be made over the weekend.

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