From zero to hotspot: COVID-19 on the Irish border

A Donegal-based GP says people breaking coronavirus restrictions will be the very ones 'moaning a...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

10.35 7 Oct 2020

Share this article

From zero to hotspot: COVID-19...

From zero to hotspot: COVID-19 on the Irish border

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

10.35 7 Oct 2020

Share this article

A Donegal-based GP says people breaking coronavirus restrictions will be the very ones 'moaning and crying when granny's in ICU dying on a ventilator.'

Dr Martin Coyne, who is based in Lifford, was speaking as the border area has gone from having one of the lowest levels of coronavirus infection rates to the highest.

The incidence rate in Northern Ireland is also the highest in the UK - surpassing Manchester.


Dr Coyne told Barry Whyte reporting for Pat Kenny: "We're looking at a list of our COVID-positive patients since the very start of the pandemic.

"The list started obviously in April and up until the 10th of September, we had 17 names on the list.

"We went back to zero on the 11th of September, and as of today we have 87 people on the list".

"It's unbelievable and yet, when I go out in the community, I don't see behaviour changing.

"I go into the local shop yesterday evening and I find a girl in a nurses uniform without a mask - who I admonished.

"I see patients who I know should be self-isolating because they're either waiting for the results of a test or they are positive.

"I know they should be self-isolating, I know they should be restricting their movements and they're out and about.

"Now this is a minority - and it's a minority that's not wearing masks, it's a minority that's not keeping their distance from other people.

"But this minority is imposing this pandemic on us - the minority are now dictating the spread of this virus".

He said the time for complacency is over, as people now know that we are in the middle of an upgoing surge.

"We must change our bahaviour, we don't have a choice - there's no time anymore for complacency, there's no time anymore for letting your guard down.

"I'm getting quite annoyed about it because I'm looking at a tsunami of infection in our practice, which I know is going to translate into patients dying, I know it's going to translate into patients going into ICU.

"People who are going around ignoring the guidelines, ignoring all the advice that they're getting - saying that this is all a hoax - these are the very people who will be moaning and crying when granny's in ICU dying on a ventilator."

From zero to COVID-19 hotspot

Newstalk reporter Barry Whyte, who is from the area, said: "We're going into the second week of level three in Co Donegal health experts would hope to see cases coming down here in the next couple of weeks.

"While in the Strabane/Derry council area just across the border, extra restrictions came into place [on Monday] there.

"Pubs, cafés, restaurants and hotels are now only open for takeaway, delivery and outdoor dining in the Derry and Strabane council area.

"And again the Northern Ireland Executive will be hoping this will bring down cases there over the next two weeks as well.

"But at this stage in this border area of Lifford and Strabane, Lifford-Stranorlar, Derry and Strabane council area, the cases are continuing to rise, they're not coming down.

"Over the weekend and if you count [Monday], there has been 159 cases confirmed in Co Donegal - and the majority of these cases I'm told are in the Lifford-Stranorlar electoral area.

"The incidence rate per 100,000 we're told last week is now over 600 - by far the highest in the country.

"While across the border in the Derry and Strabane council area, there was over 500 cases there over the weekend.

"The incidence rate there is now the highest in the UK, it's gone ahead of Manchester, it's over 500 per 100,000.

"So these two areas when you put them together are the highest in Ireland and the UK".

"There's many reasons why COVID-19 have dramatically risen here.

"I was home a month ago, and when I was home then there was virtually no COVID-19 cases.

"This was one of the less impacted areas on the whole island, that may have led to people becoming complacent.

"And I think that is understandable: if there's no cases for months in an area, I think it's normal that people would let their guard down.

"And that is what happened.

"But it seems that when the cases have started to dramatically rise in recent weeks, some people have remained complacent and some people are just not taking this seriously.

"In many parts of the country there's this minority who are not taking this seriously, and then it's the majority who suffers then".

From zero to hotspot: COVID-19 on the Irish border

00:00:00 / 00:00:00


'One of the most unsafest places'

SDLP Stormont member Daniel McCrossan lives in Strabane, and says more cross-border cooperation is needed.

"I think we need to recognise just how serious the situation is that we face: this is/was one of the safest places in Ireland to live in relation to COVID, up until recent weeks and now we're one of the most unsafest places.

"I think that is a very worrying situation for, particularly, elderly and vulnerable people of this town, of this border community.

"And the numbers are increasing two-fold everyday almost."

"It shows that this virus is carried by people, where people are travelling this virus is being transmitted."

"We need greater working relationships between the Irish Government and the executive at Stormont in order to ensure that these border communities are safe, and that this can be tackled properly".

"I just can't work out how the spread has increased so dramatically, so seriously in fact that it has caused a huge amount of anxiety and stress amongst this community.

"The only thing I could suggest is that it has just spread throughout the whole of Ireland - but more so here in border communities where we're seeing more relaxed travelling across the border back and forth".

Main image: An articulated lorry crosses the Irish-UK border near the town of Newry in February 2017. Picture by: Mariusz Smiejek/DPA/PA Images

Share this article

Read more about

Barry Whyte Border Area Coronavirus Restrictions Daniel McCrossan Derry Donegal Dr Martin Coyne Irish Border Lifford Northern Ireland Pat Kenny Strabane

Most Popular