Doctor identifies sources of spread across Donegal

A NUMBER of recent cases of Covid-19 in Donegal have been linked to a wake and funeral while people attending christening, confirmation and communion events have also been exposed to the virus, a leading doctor has said.
Donegal is at “a critical juncture” for how it handles the Covid-19 pandemic, as cases continue to mount in the county.
By Tuesday the county had an incidence rate of 84 cases per 100,000, and more than 150 new cases in the last 14 days. It is one of several counties facing increased restrictions in the coming weeks as the virus surges in different parts of the country.
Recent figures published by NPHET show that the number of cases being reported across the county is increasing at an alarming rate. In particular in recent days the number of reported cases are high in the Letterkenny and Finn Valley/Lifford areas.
Dr Anthony Breslin, Specialist in Public Health Medicine for the North West, said the community across Donegal has to step up and do all within their own individual power to contain the spread of the virus.
“Figures have gone up around the country which we expected as schools started back but unfortunately in Donegal they’ve gone up more than we would have liked.”
Dr Breslin said that while schools have been open across the county for a two to three week period now, there did not appear to be a problem with them.
“The fear was that schools might be a source of infection as they reopened but, thankfully, we’re not seeing that in Donegal. There’s a tiny bit within our schools but nothing that I’m concerned about.
“What we do appear to be seeing is people having events likes communions, christening and confirmations and forgetting to practice the proper policies and procedures. It’s been managed well by the schools and churches but not so well in the gatherings afterwards.
“When someone walks in your front door, be that a friend, granny or relative, you’ve got to stick to the guidelines. You have to keep the two metre distance and wear a face covering – that’s where the problem appears to be at the moment.
“The same thing is happening at wakes and funeral gatherings which, I accept can be more difficult. There might be large family numbers and people attending from different parts of the county and country. They all need to watch themselves as we don’t want to add to the grief of a funeral with an additional Covid-19 situation,” Dr Breslin said.
Analysis of the confirmed deaths has found that Covid-19 has had the greatest impact on people aged 65 or over. Mr Breslin said that all age groups are included in the most recent positive cases across Donegal.
“Unfortunately we don’t yet know what happens if you pick up the virus. The effects could be mild or you could have very bad flu-like symptoms. A small number end up in hospital, some of whom have to go into ICU while there have also been deaths.
“We can’t predict how a healthy 45-year-old will react to getting the virus. We don’t want people to get it in the first place,” he added.
While there are concerns nationally that the coronavirus has been spreading in house parties, Dr Breslin said it wasn’t an issue in Donegal.
“We haven’t seen any particular situation like that here in Donegal. There have been cases of young people getting the virus but there’s been no obvious links.
“However, no matter what age group is gathering, be it in a house, for a coffee or a few pals meeting up it’s all about reducing the numbers and adopting safe practices at all times. No one wants to see more restrictions,” Dr Breslin said.
“We are now at a critical juncture for this disease. We have all worked so hard to get back to some form of normality, albeit a different normality. No one enjoyed being locked up back in the spring and we don’t want to go there again,” he added.
Dr Breslin said that they don’t want to stop people doing things – just to think about how they do things.
“People made a phenomenal effort to get us to where we were in the summer and we would like to get back there again,” he added.
“It’s difficult and we have all Covid fatigue but we need to maintain a united front and realise that our decisions and actions can have a result in curbing this growth in cases”.
There has been significant rise in community testing referrals to the Donegal Testing Centre located on St Conal’s Hospital Campus, Letterkenny in the last month.
“Testing and tracing is working well. There’s been the odd hiccup but, overall, it’s working well,” he said

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