The Mayor of Galway city is urging the public to ensure they obtain information about Covid-19 from reliable sources as nationwide efforts are stepped up in the wake of a spike in the number of cases of the virus.
Ten new cases were confirmed nationally on Tuesday, two of which were in the west (a male and female, both associated with close contact with a confirmed case ) bringing the total figure in the republic to 34.
Cllr Mike Cubbard said earlier this week that we were facing an “unprecedented time” with little or no data or history with which to compare the coronavirus.
He outlined that he was concerned about people being misinformed about the illness with the proliferation of information available online on the subject. “At a time when social media is so prevalent I would ask that people ensure they are taking advice from reliable sources and in particular public health experts.”
He welcomed the decision to cancel St Patrick’s Day parades as a precautionary measure saying that public health is paramount and must be a priority. “It is disappointing for so many that annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations will not take place this year. However, the decision to cancel events is the correct one.
“Regarding my own travel, I have made a decision not to travel to America. I was kindly invited to our sister city in Seattle for their parade and weekend of events as well as to New York to march with the Galway Association. However, with rising numbers of patients in Seattle it is best for me to remain here rather than potentially catch and/or spread the virus on my return.”
Cllr Cubbard acknowledged the economic pressures facing local businesses due to the cancellation of St Patrick’s Day events. “We’ve had a difficult start to the year in terms of the weather and this outbreak of coronavirus adds further pressures to so many small local businesses. “I appreciate and sympathise with the many business owners around the city and county who will suffer huge losses without the festivities next week.”
Workplace conditions for those impacted need to be addressed
Green Party Seanad candidate Cllr Pauline O’Reilly [pictured] said that the workplace conditions for those impacted by the virus need to be addressed.
“We know that those who are in isolation due to the coronavirus are not the only people impacted. Parents and other carers are also suffering when a loved one is home from school or respite care.
“Terms and conditions for workers vary hugely and all need to be taken into consideration. I am asking the Taoiseach to include carers in the measures that are put in place. Those in precarious employment, such as carers, are deeply worried. It impacts their ability to pay rent, mortgages, and even to pay for food.”
Meanwhile, it is understood that testing centres for the coronavirus are expected to open in Galway within the next week. Details of these will be available on our social media as soon as they are made available.
Mary Tierney, a local patient rights campaigner and health advocate, appealed to people to heed the advice of health experts and to act responsibly in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19. She is concerned that while people may be very aware at the minute this heightened sense of vigilance may reduce with time.
“This is a scary time and I am concerned that not everyone will pay attention to the directives and advice being given. I don’t like the bravado or recklessness of some people saying they don’t care about it [the virus]. Someone said that on a video. All it takes is one silly person... they may damage people by their thoughtlessness. I also fear that the sense of personal responsibility many people are currently showing may wane with time.”
Ms Tierney, who lives in Castlegar, stated we all have a role to play in preventing the spread of this condition.
“Everybody matters. We all need to do our part whether it is handwashing, sharing correct information, or looking out for elderly people in our community. I remember seeing a poster in a hospital years ago which said: ‘What are the 10 dirtiest things you will look at today?’ and it showed a picture of 10 fingers. We must be mindful of this and wash our hands often.”
She was concerned about the level of panic buying locally saying it could whip up a fear frenzy as well as resulting in food waste. “This will not do the planet any good and is also putting pressure on other sectors, including delivery people. We could all do with less. Remember less is more currently in terms of handshakes and social mingling.”
She praised the Government for the “strong leadership” it has shown and said while we were all facing challenging times there were valuable life lessons to be learned from this. These included the importance of good hygience standards in terms of disease prevention, the value of team efforts, and the importance of appreciating our health professionals.
“We Irish are good at standing shoulder to shoulder and this has never been needed more. We need to look out for each other, to ring to see if others are all right. We are learning every day the importance of good hygiene. Our healthcare system is overburdened but there is a lot of good in it. Its staff have been responding very well to demands, nobody has been found wanting. I cannot but praise UHG.”
Darragh O’Loughlin, a Tuam based pharmacist and the secretary general of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU ), urged people to follow the recommendations issued by public health authorities, including the Department of Health and the HSE.
“In order to ensure that pharmacies can continue to provide services as this illness spreads, pharmacy staff must be protected from unnecessary exposure to coronavirus. Therefore, pharmacists emphasise the advice of the HSE that anyone who has been to an affected place in the last 14 days or who has had contact with someone with coronavirus and who is exhibiting fever, cough or other respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 should not attend at a pharmacy or GP clinic. Instead, they should stay at home and phone their GP or local emergency department without delay.”
Have meds on hand
He said the IPU encouraged people to have common non-prescription medications for cold, fever, and allergies on hand. “People who require medication on a regular basis should also ensure their prescriptions are up to date. We do not recommend, however, stockpiling medications in large quantities.
“If and when there is a disruption in the supply of medications, pharmacists manage their stock carefully to ensure that all their patients can receive a quantity of the medication to meet their immediate needs. Unnecessary stockpiling of medication can create unintended shortages and puts other patients’ health at risk.
“If you have any concerns about your medications or if you are sick at home and in need of your medications, call your pharmacist. Many pharmacies may be able to offer a delivery service to help patients get their medications when they can’t leave their home.”
Mr O’ Loughlin, who owns Medwell Allcare Pharmacy in Tuam, says pharmacists are “the most accessible” health care providers and have a critical role to play in identifying, reporting, and managing potential cases of Covid-19.
“As the first point of contact most people have with our health care system, pharmacists are also playing an important role answering questions and addressing misinformation from concerned patients when it comes to Covid-19.”
Saolta University Health Care Group, which runs the local public hospitals, outlined that visiting restrictions were introduced at all hospitals in the Saolta Group on Friday last as an infection control measure and will continue this week.
Outpatient clinics and other appointments at local hospitals are not affected by the visiting restrictions and all clinics/procedures are operating as normal for patients. However, people are asked not to accompany patients to their outpatient appointments.
“Outpatient, X-ray, and other scheduled appointments and procedures are going ahead as usual at University Hospital Galway, Merlin Park University Hospital, and Portiuncula University Hospital,” according to a Saolta spokesperson.
“We are asking the public not to visit any hospital other than end of life situations and other exceptional circumstances as agreed with the ward manager in advance of visiting.
“To arrange a visit, families should telephone the hospital and request to speak to the relevant ward manager who will decide if a visit can be facilitated without compromising the welfare of the patients on the ward.”
Children, in particular, should not visit patients in hospital, Saolta stressed. “We recognise that the visiting restrictions may be challenging for patients and their families, however, our priority must be to protect the patients in the hospital who are vulnerable to infection. We would like to thank members of the public for their co-operation.”