Cork GP says it is vital to bring down positive Covid cases before start of festive season

The Cabinet is meeting today to discuss the situation facing the country. 
Cork GP says it is vital to bring down positive Covid cases before start of festive season

The Cabinet is expected to agree to a number of measures today, including restrictions on school playdates, birthday parties, and school gatherings to limit the spread of the virus. Pic; Larry Cummins

A CORK GP has voiced serious concern over the high incidence of Covid-19 and the emergence of the Omicron variant, saying that it is vital to bring down the number of positive cases being reported before the start of the festive season.

Speaking to The Echo, Dr John Sheehan of Blackpool Bridge Surgery said that, in order to bring case numbers down, people will need to reduce their social contacts and attendance at gatherings.

“Reducing social contacts and gatherings, unfortunately, is the main message to get across. The other measures that were recently introduced have had an effect. We need to bring down the numbers heading into December. The hope is that we don’t hit December with high numbers because of all the mixing, which could lead to a big hit like we had in January. I don’t see a big lockdown coming, but I can see some restrictions and some easing off of gatherings. That is prudent and sensible,” he said.

Cabinet meeting 

The comments from Dr Sheehan came ahead of a meeting of Cabinet today to discuss the situation facing the country.

More than 6,900 cases of the virus were reported in Cork in the two weeks to November 25.

Some 4,607 new cases of Covid-19 were notified yesterday and, at 8am on Monday, 579 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, of whom 115 were in intensive care units (ICUs).

The Cabinet is expected to agree to a number of measures today, including restrictions on school playdates, birthday parties, and school gatherings to limit the spread of the virus.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said while she expects the Cabinet will agree to advise people to continue restricting their movements, that people are “generally ahead” of the Government in cutting down on their social activities.

“We have seen in the last few weeks, particularly as numbers have continued to increase, the general public have pulled back, be it cancelling large gatherings or just reducing and restricting their overall movements,” she said.

“When it comes to kids’ birthday parties or any type of gatherings, that is the case here too.”

Dr Sheehan said the Covid-19 Omicron variant has made people ‘up their game’ once again, while he is encouraged by the high uptake of the booster vaccine in his practice.

“I have noticed in the last few days that people are more rigorous,” he said. “It has made us all up our game and made us all more aware. The evidence about the new variant is that it spreads faster, but there is no evidence to show it is more severe and the vaccines don’t work against it.

“They obviously have to be cautious about it, and that is why the restrictions come in to delay things and buy us all time.”

Antigen test programme in schools 

Meanwhile, the HSE confirmed last night that a new schools’ antigen test helpline received more than 7,000 requests for test kits to be dispatched in its first day of operation.

Under the programme, which came into operation yesterday, tests will be made available to all children in a primary school pod where a child in the pod has had a positive PCR test. Where two or more confirmed cases occur in a class, antigen testing will be offered to the full class.

Parents or guardians are being asked to contact their child’s school principal immediately if they receive a positive Covid-19 test result for their child. The principal will then contact the parents of other children in that pod, and parents can request an antigen test kit from the HSE.

Principal of Scoil Padre Pio in Churchfield, Ken Foley, said the use of antigen testing will provide “reassurance” for both parents and staff, and will help keep “Covid at bay”.

“Antigen testing in schools will help,” he said.

“It is great to have it up and running. The whole idea and the concept of it is very good, and it will definitely help towards keeping Covid at bay in the school. It is reassuring for all the staff members and the families.”

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