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Achill GP confident outbreak is being contained


Over 40 cases detected in a fortnight on the island

Anton McNulty

The number of Covid-19 cases in Achill in the last fortnight has reached 40, but despite the worrying surge in cases a local GP believes the outbreak is being contained.
As of yesterday afternoon (Monday), there were 40 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Achill, with that number expected to rise over the next week as people continue to present with symptoms.
An initial outbreak on the island was detected two weeks ago. Since then, three clusters have been identified, and three people have been hospitalised as a result of contracting the virus.
A GP on the island, who did not wish to be named, explained to The Mayo News that they have been able to trace the spread of the virus through people engaging in ‘various social activities’ and bringing the virus into the home.
Despite expecting more cases in the next week, the GP is confident that the virus has been contained and the numbers of cases will drop off.
“The good news is the cases we are still diagnosing can be still traced back to events from about two weeks ago. It would seem there has been no new introduction of the virus into the community.
“We are constantly getting telephoned all weekend and today still and [from] contacts of people who have proved positive. There possibly will be a few [more cases], but I think they will fall off.
“I would encourage anyone with symptoms not to hesitate to contact their GP because the longer they remain symptomatic the more risk there is of community transmission,” the doctor said.

Pubs could be a factor
The island escaped the worst of the original outbreak in the spring, with only four confirmed Covid-19 cases reported in March. The doctor said the island had been fortunate during the summer when thousands of tourists descended on the island, but suggested a combination of the reopening of the pubs and a relaxation of social distancing may have resulted in the current outbreak.
“Maybe there was a certain relaxation of social distancing at the end of the tourist season. We were very fortunate there was no importing of the virus from tourists to the island during the season. There was a relaxation following the tourist season and the pubs opening may have been a factor.”
The doctor added that Level 3 had not worked throughout the country, and said the move to a higher level is a good idea ‘if we want to flatten the curve before Christmas’.

Older population
The spread of the virus through the community over the last two weeks was met with concern, especially as the parish has a largely older population. Older people and those with underlying conditions have been urged to stay at home, and Achill Tourism has resumed the Achill Community Covid Response by doing shopping for older people, and home meals have been increased.
“The important thing is to protect the vulnerable in our community, those who are cocooning at home and those in residential care and keep them from catching the virus.
“The message is to stay at home… Older people and those with underlying health conditions should not be going out to shop, and they should not be mixing in the broad community. Everyone should follow the NPHET guidelines of wearing masks or face coverings in public at all times and washing or sanitising your hands after any contact in shops or public places,” the doctor said.

Hospital admissions double
The increase in the Achill figures over the last two weeks were mirrored throughout Mayo which has seen an increase of 217 cases over the last 14 days and the incidence rate per 100,000 has increased from 77.4 last week to 166.3.
The majority of those cases occurred over the last seven days with a rise of 118 cases in the last week bringing the number of Covid-19 cases in Mayo to 888. The biggest daily increase of cases occurred on Saturday, with 30 confirmed Covid-19 cases reported on that day. The number of admissions to Mayo University Hospital as a result of Covid-19 has also doubled from four last week to the present figure of eight.
The current 14-day incidence rate per Local Electoral Area released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the HSE shows that the Belmullet Electoral Area saw the largest increase in cases in Mayo from September 29 to October 12.
During that period there were 17 confirmed cases in the Belmullet Electoral Area with the vast majority of cases occurring in Achill. In contrast, only five cases were recorded in the previous 14 day period from September 22 to October 5. The increase in cases in the electoral area brought the incidence rate per 100,000 to 134.9, having stood at only 39.7 last week.
The largest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases was recorded in the Claremorris Electoral Area, with 26 confirmed cases bringing that area’s incidence rate to 95.8. There were 24 confirmed cases in the Castlebar Electoral Area and 16 each in Ballina and Swinford Electoral Area. Westport had the lowest number, with seven confirmed cases.