BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY Carmel Carroll and Kevin Davitt from Mill Street, Westport pictured on the Mall in Westport on Sunday. They, like others, were out enjoying the fine weather but were extra careful of infections on account of Kevin's heart transplant in 2018 and the mounting cases of the Covid-19 virus in the country. Their message to the public was to take heed, take precautions and take care. Pic: Conor McKeown
Vulnerable need help during Covid-19 crisis – Ring
The mobilisation of community and voluntary groups in Mayo can play a crucial part in curtailing the spread of Covid-19 and protecting vulnerable groups, according to Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring.
The Department of Health stated at the time of going to print that there are 169 confirmed cases of Covid-19, better known as the coronavirus, in Ireland, with nine associated with the west. While there has been no officially confirmed reports of the virus in Mayo, its confirmed arrival into the county is considered an inevitability as numbers of confirmed cases are expected to spike in the next week.
With the crisis at a critical stage, Minister Michael Ring stated that now is the time for communities to rally round and support their vulnerable neighbours.
“The Covid-19 outbreak presents a challenge for individuals and communities across Ireland. In these exceptional circumstances, all community members have a role to play in helping those who may require additional support.
“Basic needs such as doing the weekly shopping, ensuring the house is warm and clean and keeping in regular contact by phone are among the tasks that local volunteers can carry out to enable vulnerable people to continue to live their daily lives safely in the community.
“I note from social media in recent days the numerous offers of help from people within our communities to assist more vulnerable people. I very much welcome this, and we are working to coordinate and support these efforts.
“At the same time, I would strongly advise communities and volunteers to follow the most recent advices from the HSE and ensure that this is the message being delivered across our community network.
“While a whole-of-Government coordinated approach is the backbone to planning for and managing the effects of this emergency, solutions are ultimately implemented at a community level. My department is working on a number of specific actions in partnership with the community and voluntary sector to support communities in their efforts,” said Minister Ring.
During the week, the number of measures to help curtail the spread of the virus increased, with the Government announcing the closure of schools, colleges, childcare facilities, cultural institutions and public facilities until March 29, while the Vintners Federation of Ireland told its members to also close their premises for the next two weeks.
While welcoming the measures introduced in the last week, Lorraine O’Malley, whose ten-year-old daughter Grace suffers from a rare health condition, believes a total lockdown is the only way to protect vulnerable patients like Grace.
“I would be delighted if the government said they were shutting everything down. For anyone with an underlying condition, this is a scary time. It is beyond scary,” Lorraine told The Mayo News.
“I know people have to pay their bills and a lot of people would be affected [by a lockdown] but at the end of the day we have to fight it and stop it. If Grace was to contract the coronavirus the possibility of her pulling through would be very slim, and that is the reality.”
Grace suffers with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic condition that affects the nerves in the spinal cord, and over time children’s conditions deteriorate. Following a long campaign, Grace started treatment using the ground-breaking drug Spinraza in January, and she is due to undergo further treatment in Dubin’s Tallaght Hospital at the end of March.
Lorraine decided to take Grace and her brother Mark out of Robeen NS before the order was made to close the schools, and the family, including Lorraine’s husband Paul, are all self-isolating. “We fought years for her to get Spinraza treatment and now that she finally has it along comes a virus that could kill her. It is crazy and worrying beyond belief. I have a sign on the door saying that visitors are not welcome and doing all I can to keep the virus from our door. My mum wasn’t feeling well and I felt so bad not going to see her while my father called over and I had to say he wasn’t coming in. I am a bit obsessive, but I have to be, because of the high risk to Grace,” said Lorraine who urged people to stay at home if they do not have to go outside.
Don’t risk lives
While pubs will be closed on St Patrick’s Day for the first time since 1960, Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health called on the public not to organise private parties in houses, as it will also put public lives at risk.
He said the next seven days were vital, and he urged people to continue to wash their hands regularly, reduce their social contact to a handful of people and stay at least two metres from people in a shop or supermarket.
The public were also encouraged to contact their GP if they need to take a test for Covid-19 and not to ring 999/112.
Former TD and Mulranny-based GP Dr Jerry Cowley said measures are in place in surgeries across the county to deal with the outbreak of Covid-19 in Mayo.
“Everybody is talking about it and people have genuine fears, especially older people and sick people. If people have to come to the surgery we have to make sure there is no concentration of people who would be liable to pass it onto to vulnerable people.
“We have our own notice on the door asking people who have symptoms not to come into the surgery and go back to their car and phone us, and we will then instruct them what to do.
“I would be extremely worried about it coming here [to Mayo]. We have no vaccine. There is a vaccine for the flu, and that is the big difference.
“It [Covid-19] seems to be quite infectious, and we don’t seem to know a lot about it. The worry is, will there be enough facilities in the hospitals to treat the vulnerable people? I hope there will be,” he told The Mayo News.