A CORK GP has warned that the current situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak is about to become “more serious”.
Dr Mary Favier, who is also President of the Irish College of General Practitioners, said she had spoken with a number of patients on Tuesday in her capacity as a GP, who she suspected had COVID-19. “In my view this is serious, and it is going to become more serious.
"We need to accept that we now have community transmission in Cork,” she said.
It comes as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the Republic of Ireland jumped to 34 this evening, with 10 new cases identified.
Five of these cases have been identified in individuals in the south of the country including one male healthcare worker - associated with hospital transmission, three males- associated with travel from an affected area, and one female- associated with close contact with a confirmed case.
Sixteen cases have been reported in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of cases on the island of Ireland to 50.
“It is not practical at the moment to check all these patients so we are giving them careful advice,” she added.
Earlier this week, the ICGP asked that all patients make appointments to see their GPs and not to attend in person at a surgery without an appointment amid the outbreak.
“We are requesting the public to help us keep frontline healthcare staff as safe as possible from the COVID-19 virus.
"We know that the cases of community transmission are increasing and therefore we are asking that particularly those people with acute respiratory symptoms e.g. fever, cough, shortness of breath, or flu-like symptoms to contact their GP practice in advance, and take advice from the staff there,” Dr Favier said.
Asked if GPs in Cork have the capacity to deal with the outbreak, Dr Favier said that this is something which is a source of concern for her.
“GPs in Cork have been at capacity for so many years. As it stands, people are waiting for up to a week for an appointment some times.
"We are having to suspend a lot of normal appointments at the moment because of the outbreak. This is stretching GPs even now,” she added.
Dr Favier said as the situation becomes more serious, it is important to step up efforts to protect older people and vulnerable groups.
“I would be recommending that anyone aged over 60 would avoid mass gatherings and handshaking and that they keep social distance. We need to protect our older people and our vulnerable groups,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dr Favier said it is vital that anyone with a fever or other symptoms seeks advice and self excludes themselves.
“These people should not go to work, and should contact their GP for advice. Illness certification can be filed electronically for these patients,” she said.