Amid a surge in COVID hospitalisations, a senior GP has urged people not to stop wearing a face mask on public transport or in shops.
The number of hospital patients with COVID has increased by 25% in the past week alone and Dr Denis McAuley said it could be linked to the Government’s decision to make face masks optional in shops and on public transport.
“It just shows that the public health measures did work,” Dr McAuley, a GP and Chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP Committee, told The Pat Kenny Show.
“The fact is that we’re dealing with a very infectious virus and that as soon as we take away the public health measures, the rates start to go up significantly. So the public health measures work.”
Listen and subscribe to The Pat Kenny Show on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.
“I must admit I was hoping to see the numbers dropping; the numbers going up is disappointing and we all we need to is reset, to sort of clarify to everybody that we think we should get through this but we should ask that everyone should be mannerly and should wear a mask until as least the numbers begin to go down.”
His concerns were echoed by Professor Cliona O'Farrelly who said that the fight against COVID was not over and that society needed to make long-term adjustments to minimise the threat it poses:
“It’s taken us such a long time to actually grasp the fact that this virus is airborne and we can do a lot to make sure that our air is clean,” Professor O’Farrelly sighed.
“I’ve just read a really interesting report which has compared the current situation with how 200 years ago dirty water spread cholera and how by introducing clean water right across the world [we stopped that].
“We should have a similar sort of attitude towards the quality of the air that we breathe.”
However, Minister Simon Harris said that, for the time being at least, masks would remain optional:
“There’s no current proposals before Government in that regard to the very best of my knowledge,” Minister Harris told Newstalk.
“Government is always guided - and has been since February and March 2020 - by public health advice in our response to this.
“That advice hasn’t changed but, at the same time, I think people have adapted their own behaviours. I think we all carry the face mask with us and wear it in scenarios where we believe it to be appropriate.
“And I think that’s what’s likely to continue.”
Main image: An Intensive Care Unit in December 2021. Picture by: Abaca Press / Alamy Stock Photo