Dr Padraig McGarry
Social or physical distancing is the essential measure for preventing the transmission of the Covid-19 virus and, while the majority of people are taking advice on board, there are still those who are flocking to beaches and public parks or, in the case of last weekend, house parties, where they come into contact with several other people in a short space of time.
But at a time when Mother’s Day has to be celebrated through a window pane, young people are encouraged to pick up the phone to #RingYourGranny, and local volunteers are delivering groceries and prescriptions to elderly people in isolation, it is more important now than it ever was to be mindful of the vulnerable.
“The measures that people take themselves are going to be the most important thing,” said local GP and president of the IMO Dr Padraig McGarry.
“The only way you’re going to stop people from getting sick is by looking after your hygiene and social distancing.
“Those who are most vulnerable should stay out of the way, isolate themselves and stay away from any sources that might bring an infection. And that’s probably the most important thing.
“From what I can gather, there appears to be a fairly good response to the social distancing. The penny has dropped a bit. Although, you do see some horrendous examples of lack of it when you see places jammed. It doesn’t make any sense at all but you can’t explain it to some people,” Dr McGarry added.
At the time of going to print, there were 1,125 cases of the Covid-19 confirmed in Ireland, and a total of six deaths. The UK has gone into lockdown, and there are expectations that Ireland will follow suit in a bid to tackle the onslaught of the virus, which is not only taking lives, but jobs and businesses too.
As of Monday night, the HSE was trying to deal with a backlog of 40,000 requests for Covid-19 tests as centres were being set up across the country.
Dr McGarry has assured that testing facilities are up and running and, while there is a backlog, that will hopefully be worked through as more test centres become available.
“GPs will send off the requests electronically. We don’t actually get back the test. The patient gets back the test. If you’re positive, you’ll get a phone call from the test centre to tell you that you’re positive, and that kicks off a series of contact tracing and/or the advice that is appropriate to the patient,” Dr McGarry explained.
“Those that are negative will get a text back. Results come back to the GP some days later by letter.”
There are currently delays in test results and, while it can be a frustrating wait, it is important to assume you are positive until proven negative.
“If you have had a test, you have to consider, on the basis of the symptoms that you have and the decision that was made - that it was appropriate for you to go and get the test - that you are positive until proven otherwise,” said Dr McGarry.
“You have to take the advice that is proper to you from whoever you were speaking to. And when your test comes out, positive or negative, you get appropriate advice thereafter.”
With everything in the country shutting down over the past couple of weeks, even the hospitals are experiencing a lull with numbers waiting for beds dropping to a low that hasn’t been seen in an age.
“Hospital wards are empty; the trolley count has dropped out of the sky. The hospitals are virtually empty at this time,” said Dr McGarry.
“But the one thing, I think is important, is that if you do get other ailments and you’re concerned about them, ring your doctor about them. Because general practice is still open and we will triage your symptoms and decide whether you need further assessment in the surgery.
Covid-19 may be the main medical emergency at the moment, but life goes on and other illnesses still exist.
“Just because Covid is around, doesn’t mean other things stop. So if you have symptoms, you ring your doctor. Your doctor will talk you through your symptoms and determine whether you need further investigation straight away or perhaps whether it could be deferred longer.
“But if you have symptoms you’re concerned about, do ring them. Don’t leave it on the long finger and say ‘that doesn’t really matter’ because you could have symptoms that are significant.”
It is still important to follow HSE guidelines: wash your hands, sneeze or cough into your elbow, and ensure you are at least two metres or six feet away from other people when out and about.
Most importantly, look out for the more vulnerable members of society - the elderly and those with underlying conditions - to ensure they don't contract the virus from you.
While 80% of people will suffer mild symptoms, for those in the higher risk category, this virus could be fatal.
Read also: Another Covid-19 death confirmed in Ireland as number of cases jumps to 1,329