'A long road ahead': Cork consultant warns coronavirus will be with us for a long time

'A long road ahead': Cork consultant warns coronavirus will be with us for a long time
Bandon, West Cork, Ireland. 3rd May, 2020. In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, a lone female Garda Sergeant patrols the streets of Bandon ensuring citizens are not making unnecessary journeys. Picture: Andy Gibson

A CORK consultant has urged people to remain careful and not become complacent around measures introduced to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Cork-based consultant in infectious diseases, Dr Arthur Jackson has warned that the impact of the outbreak is not over.

He believes “we are at the end of the beginning of the Covid impact, not at the beginning of the end” and he feels it’s important not to have people believing that “this is coming to an end”.

He said that both the direct and indirect impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak will be felt for some time. These direct impacts include some people “potentially getting very sick, and dying”, he said.

Gardai arriveand start to move people on, as members of the public were chilling out in the fine May Bank Holiday weather, in Merrion Square Park in Dublin, as people looked forward to a slight easing of Covid-19 restrictions from Tuesday. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Gardai arriveand start to move people on, as members of the public were chilling out in the fine May Bank Holiday weather, in Merrion Square Park in Dublin, as people looked forward to a slight easing of Covid-19 restrictions from Tuesday. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The indirect impacts include those which will be felt as a result of the effect on the economy, of social isolation and the fact that with hospitals all having periods where operations and outpatient appointments are cancelled, that there is potential for some people to have delayed diagnoses.

It comes as latest figures show that on Saturday night, 27 people were receiving care at Cork hospitals for either confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

Six people were receiving intensive care at critical care units across Cork University Hospital, the Mercy Hospital and the Bon Secours hospital.

The infectious diseases consultant said he believes that the response to the outbreak has been very good to date.

“I’m very complimentary and appreciative of the government action,” he said, “they did this extremely well.” Dr Jackson said that the societal response to the outbreak has also been very positive adding: “we as a community and a country have responded very well.” 

The consultant cautioned however that “unfortunately because we have done such a good job so far, very little people have been infected [with the disease] and the majority of the population is vulnerable to Covid-19.” 

On Friday, the government announced details of a roadmap of when the restrictions introduced to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus might be eased.

Gardai at a checkpoint on the N11 Motorway heading South out of Dublin, on the first day of the May Bank Holiday weekend, as the government seeks to restrain members of the public from travelling to locations outside the 2K distance from their homes, as part of the Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie
Gardai at a checkpoint on the N11 Motorway heading South out of Dublin, on the first day of the May Bank Holiday weekend, as the government seeks to restrain members of the public from travelling to locations outside the 2K distance from their homes, as part of the Covid-19 restrictions. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Dr Jackson said that while some restrictions would likely be lifted in the weeks ahead, that people should be prepared for the possibility of some of these restrictions being reintroduced in the future, or going on longer than expected if this was needed and based on best medical advice.

“While we’ve done a great job so far, we can’t get complacent,” he said.

The Cork-based consultant said there remains much uncertainty around what could be ahead, or what treatments may or may not be available for patients.

However, he did say that the country was better placed to respond to Covid-19 now than it was two months ago and that if the outbreak progressed in the wrong direction that we would “not be back at square one”.

“The infrastructure developed over the last three months is huge,” he said, highlighting developments in testing, tracing and providing care for people with the disease.

“We are in a much stronger position to challenge [this] and get it under control,” he said.

"We are better off now than we were. We have experience of treating people.” Dr Jackson said there were not very many people with Covid-19 who were critically ill in hospitals in Cork, and that while there was no specific treatment for the virus, that “we are good at giving supportive treatment.” 

He also stressed that most people who contract Covid-19 would get over the illness without being admitted to intensive care or having serious outcomes.

For now , Dr Jackson says the key message is that people do not get complacent and that they continue to adhere to the recommendations of the government as the outbreak could still “get out of control.”

Last night, the National Public Health Emergency Team confirmed that another 19 people with Covid-19 had died, bringing the number related deaths in Ireland to 1,303.

A further 330 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported, with 21,506 cases now reported nationally.

Here in Cork, a breakdown of data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) shows that 1,156 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Cork up to midnight on Thursday night (April 30th).

Cork now accounts for 5.6% of all cases reported nationally.

A regional breakdown of the data shows that 338 cases of Covid-19 have been reported among healthcare workers in the HSE South region which comprises Cork and Kerry.

The number of clusters of outbreaks of Covid-19 reported now exceeds 100.

According to the latest HPSC report, 117 clusters or outbreaks of the disease have been identified across the two counties with the vast majority of these, 54, reported in private houses.

Fourteen clusters of outbreaks of Covid-19 have been reported in residential institution settings, 11 in hospitals, eight in community hospital/long-stay facilities, and eight in nursing homes.

One cluster or outbreak has been identified in a pub, one in a hotel, one is considered a “community outbreak” and one is not specified.

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