Cork GPs have warned that the region could be facing level three restrictions by the end of the week amid increased Covid-19 cases, with a leading expert warning that if hospitals become overwhelmed this winter, people who would otherwise have survived the virus will die.
With the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) set to meet later this week, GPs in Cork said they would not be surprised to see level three restrictions put in place in the Rebel County.
Level three restrictions would see more stringent measures put in place for house visitors, pubs and restaurants, nursing homes and events, and would also mean the closure of some non-essential businesses.
Dr Nuala O’Connor, Cork GP and Clinical Lead on Covid-19 for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), said the decision lies with NPHET but warned that, with cases increasing, a move to level three for Cork is “likely”.
She explained that intensive care (ICU) beds that were once free for Covid-19 concerns are now being utilised in a bid to catch up on non-Covid issues.
If Covid-19 cases continue to rise, Dr O’Connor warned there may not be sufficient ICU beds.
“Most of the people who are getting unwell at the moment probably don’t feel too ill and thankfully they’ll get better at home,” she explained.
“But 14 percent of people with this virus will end up in hospital and five percent will end up in intensive care.
“If there isn’t an ICU bed available, your chances of dying are very, very high,” she added.
“When this first broke out, other countries had to ration their ICU beds on an age basis, telling people ‘sorry, you’re over 60 and we don’t have an ICU bed for you’.
“We never got to that stage in Ireland but that’s what will happen if we don’t get a handle on this.
“In that scenario that sees our hospitals overwhelmed, young people who would otherwise have survived will die.”
Dr O’Connor said the responsibility to control Covid-19 cases lies with the general public.
“What’s different between now and March 5 is that now we know exactly what to do to stop this virus in its tracks,” she explained.
“I know we’re all tired but the message is very, very simple.
“Everybody must meet less people, it’s not rocket science,” she added.
Dr O’Connor said that people in their late teens and early twenties appear to be getting the brunt of the blame but explained that the term ‘young’ actually refers to anyone under the age of 45.
“It’s not just the students on College Road, it’s very much the communions, christenings, 30th and 40th birthdays and even retirement do’s,” she said.
“People tend to let their guard down with friends and relatives but we need to follow the public health guidelines no matter who we’re with.
“It’s six people from three households indoors and 15 from three outdoors,” she added.
“At the end of the day all of this comes down to people taking personal responsibility for their actions.”
Fellow Cork GP Dr Ronan Boland said doctors are concerned about increased Covid-19 cases in the region.
“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.”