COVID CONCERNS Top medic calls for masks to be made mandatory on busy Dublin streets
A consultant in infectious diseases is calling for masks to be worn on the capital's streets in a bid to lower Covid-19 levels, as the latest figures show half of cases lie in Dublin.
Dr Jack Lambert, a consultant in infectious diseases and genitourinary medicine at the Mater Hospital, said mask-wearing in congregated areas outside, is a decision that "must be taken now".
But Dr Lambert predicted the Government would not make this move for at least four weeks.
"It's not clear who's in charge in terms of Covid-19," Dr Lambert told the Herald.
Last night's figures for the virus showed there were 138 new cases, with 68 of these in Dublin. The remainder were spread across the country, with Limerick reporting the second highest case numbers at 13. Galway and Kildare both had nine.
The latest cases were announced after the Sunday Independent reported that Beaumont Hospital in Dublin had been struck by outbreaks of Covid-19, with three patients and two staff testing positive.
Three wards in the hospital were closed and more than 10 staff deemed to be close contacts were asked to self-isolate at home.
Dr Lambert claimed there had been a number of outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes in recent days. He said it was his belief that masks needed to be worn throughout hospitals, including in cafés and offices, by medical staff.
"You need a mask in every situation and we are letting our guard down," he added.
With Dublin's figures at a high level for a number of weeks now, it was time to wear masks inside and out on busier streets, he said.
"I was walking around Henry Street and Grafton Street and there were crowds but no one was wearing a mask," Dr Lambert said.
"If I was in Government, it is the first thing I would bring in - masks in busier outside areas.
"There's such a fear, we are paralysed by it. We have to do something to improve best practice - that is masks and social distancing because we need the economy to recover and mental health is suffering.
"We need to travel, to welcome visitors safely. We should open all the pubs and yes, we run a risk but we need to live safely with the virus."
Dr Laura Durcan, consultant rheumatologist at Beaumont Hospital, told Brendan O'Connor on RTÉ 1: "I'm not alarmed at all," by the outbreaks at the hospital.
"Beaumont and James' are the only hospitals in the country, as far as I'm aware, who are testing everyone who comes in for an overnight stay.
"If you come into our emergency department or are admitted for an operation, we will stick an unpleasant swab up your nose and make sure that you are not going to be a risk to staff and other people around you.
"I would call this a success story. We hunt down a case and when we find it, we shut down the wards, where the contacts are and we chase it out of the hospital, he said.
"I think nationally, we need to start looking at whether we need serial testing for our healthcare workers."
Former HSE director general Tony O'Brien said if the Covid-19 figures were to increase in Irish hospitals, the country would be facing "a catastrophic winter".
Mr O'Brien called for the Government to provide all the necessary funding the HSE asks for during the winter period to ensure the system is able to cope.
Bed blocking could not be allowed, Mr O'Brien said while he warned overcrowding could not be tolerated during a pandemic when social distancing is vital.