There is no room for complacency in Cork amid a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases and limited hospital capacity, a Cork GP has warned.
Cork has seen an increase in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, with 54 new cases reported on Sunday alone.
GP Dr Ronan Boland admitted he would not be surprised if Cork, like Dublin and Donegal, was placed under level three restrictions in the near future.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly warned in recent days that Cork is one of four counties where there is the possibility of additional restrictions being announced, and said it is being monitored “very carefully”.
A video showing crowds singing songs on Cork’s Grand Parade over the weekend was circulating on social media this morning.
Speaking on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio, Dr Boland said Covid-19 has risen “extremely rapidly” in Cork in recent weeks.
“I would be very surprised if NPHET don’t make the recommendation in the very short term that Cork be moved to level three,” he admitted.
Dr Boland said public health guidelines can be maintained in controlled environments such as pubs.
“What happens is behaviour becomes inhibited and groups gather with alcohol on board.
“The compliance with public health guidance tends to wane in that situation,” he added.
“We have particular reason to be concerned in Cork not just in terms of the rise in cases but because of the very limited capacity in our hospital system to cope.” Pointing to HSE figures in relation to vacant hospital beds in Cork, Dr Boland said that both Cork University Hospital and the Mercy have been operating at full capacity throughout the summer.
“My colleagues and I are very concerned about the rising cases, which have gone in the space of two weeks from low single figures to 30, 40, 50 cases very rapidly,” he said.
Dr Boland explained the latest increase in cases reflects what GPs are seeing on the ground.
“There has been a significant upsurge in what I would call ‘small fires’ breaking out in the city and in surrounding towns.
“It’s happened quite rapidly in the space of 10 days “Every one of those small fires is potentially a big fire in four or five days or a week’s time,” he added.
Dr Boland warned that people congregating on the streets of Cork city will only compound the problem.
“We worry a bit more about indoor settings than outdoor settings because outdoors is safer if people maintain a social distance,” he explained.
“But if they’re shoulder to shoulder singing songs with alcohol on board, it’s not a safe environment.” Dr Boland also highlighted the dangers of groups congregating at people’s homes when returning from pubs and restaurants, or as an alternative.
He said such a scenario gives rise to the potential for Covid-19 to spread.
“People tend to forget that although they may be relatively safe in terms of the age group they’re in, many of them are going home to households where there are vulnerable family members.
“Those people in my experience have done everything to keep themselves safe.
“They’re very worried about the behaviour of people, not just teenagers or those in their twenties but across the age groups, who are not being careful enough and who are complacent.
“When you look at the numbers in terms of what’s happening in Cork, we have no grounds for complacency particularly given the lack of capacity in our hospital system if there’s a big upsurge over the next few weeks as we head into winter.”