Time to go ‘back to basics’ to tackle Covid-19, says Cork GP

The Cork doctor said that GPs and hospitals have witnessed a “significant rise” in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.
Time to go ‘back to basics’ to tackle Covid-19, says Cork GP

Dr O’Connor urged anyone who is over 65 or immunocompromised who hasn’t gotten their next booster, or any person who has yet to be vaccinated, to do so to protect themselves and others. Pic; Larry Cummins

A Cork City GP has said it’s time to go “back to basics” to tackle the latest wave of Covid-19, and that the key to stopping the spread is to stay at home at the first signs of symptoms.

Dr Nuala O’Connor, GP with Elmwood Medical Practice and lead for Infection Control with the Irish College of General Practitioners, said that GPs and hospitals are seeing a “significant rise” in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

“We’re not doing as close monitoring in the community as we were, but we see that figures have gone up a lot in hospitals in the last three weeks; and, also, in general practice, we’re getting a lot more calls about Covid-19,” she said.

On June 8, there were 289 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospitals, and there were 627 cases on Tuesday, June 21. Twenty-eight people with Covid-19 were being treated at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and 17 were being treated at the Mercy University Hospital. There were four general beds available at CUH on the same date and one at the Mercy. No intensive-care beds were available at either hospital.

Twenty-eight people with Covid-19 were being treated at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and 17 were being treated at the Mercy University Hospital.  There were four general beds available at CUH on the same date and one at the Mercy. No intensive care beds were available at either hospital. Picture Dan Linehan
Twenty-eight people with Covid-19 were being treated at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and 17 were being treated at the Mercy University Hospital.  There were four general beds available at CUH on the same date and one at the Mercy. No intensive care beds were available at either hospital. Picture Dan Linehan

Dr O’Connor said that the key to reducing transmission, and something that people are forgetting about, is to stay home and away from others at the first signs of symptoms.

“On a Monday afternoon people are coming into the practice, saying they weren’t feeling great on Thursday, but went into work on Friday, were away for the weekend, and then woke up Monday morning too sick to go to work… or kids coming in in school uniforms, meaning they’ve been in school all day,” she said.

“If you have any symptoms of infection, you need to stay at home, particularly in the early stages, because that’s when you’re likely to be most infectious,” she added.

Dr O’Connor also urged anyone who is over 65 or immunocompromised, who hasn’t got their next booster, or any person who has yet to be vaccinated, to do so to protect themselves and others.

As for masks, she said we shouldn’t go back to mandatory mask-wearing, although she reminded people that masks are still required in healthcare settings, to reduce the risk for vulnerable patients as well as healthcare workers.

However she said that masks can still provide “a little extra protection” for those who need it.

“Particularly if you're immunocompromised, you should try to avoid crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces, because we know that there's a lot of undiagnosed Covid-19 in the community. I think many people will feel more comfortable wearing a mask if they're using public transport, or they're going into a busy supermarket, and they need that little extra protection – and that’s just what some people will need to do,” she said.

Dr O’Connor said that while the currently dominant strains of Omicron are very infectious, people who are contracting Covid-19 now are experiencing shorter periods of less serious illness, with mild symptoms, such as a runny nose or cough.

However, she said people still need to uphold a “personal and social responsibility” not to go out with mild symptoms, to protect those who may not be able to fight off infection so easily.

“You might not feel particularly sick, but you could come in contact with somebody, and your very mild infection could be quite serious for them. We have people in society who are immunocompromised, who are much more vulnerable to the serious side effects of Covid-19 and other infections, and we all have a responsibility to protect them,” she said.

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