A professor of virology has urged people to start wearing masks again as the number of people in hospital with COVID has doubled in the space of a month.
Earlier in March there were only 800 people in Irish hospitals with the virus. However, today the Department of Health said the number now stands at 1,624 - of whom 54 are being treated in ICU.
It also confirmed that an additional 39,561 people reported testing positive for the virus over the past three days - 11,729 people today, 12,372 on Sunday and 15,460 on Saturday.
The five day moving average now stands at 16,510.
'Return to normal living'
Virology Professor Dr Gerald Barry says there are a number of reasons behind the trend:
“I think it’s a combination of two factors; I wouldn’t call it complacency, I think people are just following direction really from Government and NPHET to return to normal living,” Dr Barry told Newstalk.
“When you throw into it that we’re dealing with a new variant that is incredibly transmissible.
“When you put the two in the mix together you have a combination that inevitably leads to an increase in cases.”
Dr Barry continued that one way to bring the numbers down would be for people to start wearing masks again:
“I think masks are a very effective way of reducing the risk of picking up this virus,” he said.
“I think when we have so many cases circulating in the country at the moment, if people want to reduce their risk then the use of masks will help add an extra layer of protection.
“It’s not going to guarantee that you won’t get the infection but it will help reduce the risk.”
His recommendation was echoed by the President of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine Fergal Hickey:
“Genuinely important that people do what they can,” he said.
“Now going back to wearing masks in indoor settings, on public transport, at indoor sports events, in retail - and generally trying to understand that their actions will have a significant impact on the healthcare system for better or for worse.
“So it’s really important that people go back to doing the things that we did.”
Main image: A physician in uniform with a stethoscope is seen near a hospital. Picture by: Alliance / Alamy Stock Photo