"There is a problem and we need to recognise it" – GP calls on public to respond to new Covid wave 3 months ago

"There is a problem and we need to recognise it" – GP calls on public to respond to new Covid wave

"Put your mask in your back pocket again. Have it with you."

Close to 24,000 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland on Tuesday (22 March), reflecting an overall spike in numbers in recent weeks.

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The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on the Government to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing in crowded and indoor settings.

World Health Organisation Europe director Hans Kluge has criticised several European countries for lifting their respective Covid restrictions too "brutally", including Ireland.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 on Wednesday, Donegal-based GP Denis McCauley urged the public to respond appropriately to the new wave of Covid, particularly in the wake of a rise in hospitalisations.

"I think there is sort of a, 'Speak to the hand' type thing – 'Problem? What problem?' – I think there is a problem. And we need to recognise it.

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"The tone is, 'There's no problem here, what's the problem? Covid again? Give our heads peace.' – I think there is a problem, I think we need to do something.

"We need to change things, subtly initially, and hopefully if that works then we won't need to think about dreadful things like mandatory issues after that."

McCauley urged caution amongst the general public, and called on "people of influence" to reinforce public health advice and remind people that Covid "hasn't gone away yet" and to be "sensible and practical" for the foreseeable future.

"Put your mask in your back pocket again," he suggested.

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"Have it with you. If you're going to an indoor area wear your mask again. If you're in a large populated area outside and there's a lot of people around – wear your mask."

Elsewhere on the programme, Dr David Nabarro, Special Envoy on Covid-19 for the World Health Organisation, posited that a slower rollback on restrictions in Ireland may have prevented the current spike.

Nabarro also noted that while the persistence of Covid-19 is "a dangerous situation", particularly with regards to vulnerable individuals and long-term health concerns, he said it is not as dangerous as it was a year-and-a-half ago.

"I think authorities are concluding that they can live with this kind of situation," he added.

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"They'll be watching it very carefully but perhaps this is the way that things are going to be in the future. There will be quite a lot of Covid being transmitted; not so many people in hospital because of the high levels of vaccination."

Asked if more people should be wearing masks in a country like Ireland, be it at work, in shops or in schools, Nabarro said:

"I'm a public health doctor and the kind of advice that we give is always about trying to prevent people from getting sick or dying.

"My own view is that where you've got quite a lot of virus being transmitted, it still makes sense to be wearing masks, particularly in confined spaces, to be practicing physical distancing, and if you are a very susceptible person you need to be really quite careful about going out and meeting other people."

Speaking in Dáil Éireann on Tuesday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar moved to rule out a return to mandatory mask-wearing.

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"I absolutely acknowledge that our hospitals are under enormous pressure at the moment, not just because of Covid," he said.

"There's also the Bank Holiday effect, and there's also deferred demand.

"And the message from Government on masks is very much in line with public health advice – that it's advised on public transport, and also advised in crowded indoor spaces.

"But we don't propose to make it a criminal offence again not to do so," the Tánaiste concluded.

Featured Image of Covid mural via Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie