A Donegal doctor has said the number of coronavirus patients in his practice has more than trebled in the past two weeks.
Donegal will tonight become the second county to enter Phase Three restrictions after a “dramatic increase” in cases in recent weeks.
The 14-day incidence rate in the county now sits at 122.5 – the second highest in the country after Dublin.
The rate in Stranorlar is one of the highest in the country at 336 per 100,000 population.
On Breakfast Briefing with Shane Beatty this morning, Dr Martin Coyne, a GP in nearby Lifford, said his practice had seen 17 cases from the start of the outbreak up until September 17th.
He said he has seen 54 patients in the two weeks since.
“Unfortunately, it does seem to be social gatherings,” he said.
“Birthday parties, Leaving Cert result parties, communions, unfortunately a wake, where people have been gathering together and probably not respecting social distancing advice.
“Unfortunately, it has got into our community now and it is spreading.”
He said people must keep their guard up and remember, “how horrible a condition this is.”
“Even if you don’t end up in hospital, some patients are going to be miserably unwell,” he said. “Even if you are not unwell, you are going to be severely restricted.
“People need to look up the HSE website and see what self-isolation actually means. It mans you have to stay in your own house, in your own room and not mix with anybody for ten days – it is like being in prison for ten days.
“If you are a contact of somebody who has had COVID-19, you should self-isolate for 14 days until you get the all-clear from public health.
“So, this is not a minor, Mickey Mouse condition to get. Even if it doesn’t affect you horribly physically, from a social point of view, it is going to have you, virtually, a prisoner in your own house.
“People should respect that and think twice before they decide, ‘this doesn’t apply to me, this is a minor illness and the other aspect is that, if you are young and COVID-positive, you may not know and you may bring it home to those that are vulnerable to the condition.”
He said the border with Derry has also contributed to rising cases numbers.
“The border doesn’t exist as regards people travelling to and for, to work, to shop, to socialise, to go to school,” he said.
“I am certainly not blaming Derry because the border works both ways. People from the North may have brought the disease over to us but we are certainly bringing it over to them as well.
“We have an awful lot of families who straddle the border and when it comes to this disease, it doesn’t see the border.”
The move to Level Three will see restaurants, cafes and pubs across Donegal closing their doors – except for delivery, takeaway and outdoor dining with no more than 15 customers.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland has warned that the move will lead to the loss of 5,000 jobs.
A full list of the new restrictions that are in place are available here.