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Government must think outside the box – Cowley

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'THIS VIRUS IS PERVERSE' Mulranny GP Jerry Cowley.

Former TD says keeping schools open should not be ‘a red-line issue’

Anton McNulty

A FORMER Mayo TD believes the Government have to think outside the box when it comes to dealing with Covid-19 and there should be no hard and fast rules.
While supporting the current Level 5 restrictions, Mulranny-based GP Dr Jerry Cowley believes that there should be no hard or fast rules in relation to Government guidelines and does not agree that schools remaining open should be ‘a red-line issue’.
“I have no problem with the schools being open at all but I don’t think there should be hard and fast rules to ensure they remain open. I think we should think outside the box when dealing with this virus because this virus is perverse and is something which we had never seen before. It is not reacting the same way which we have seen other viruses act or react and it is a major problem, especially for older people. I just feel there should be no red line issues and that includes keeping schools open,” he told The Mayo News.
Dr Cowley was responding to comments he made to The Irish Times where he said that schools and wet pubs have been significant factors in the sharp rise in Covid-19 numbers. He  said he himself had made 29 Covid referrals last Wednesday and believes that while the current restrictions are hard on people and businesses, they are necessary in keeping the virus out of the community.
“There was slippage after the summer when people did very well and the virus is now in the community and the worrying thing is it will affect the elderly community. Once it does it will show no mercy and it is up to people to maintain social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing and sanitising. I know elderly people who are afraid of leaving the home and while it can have an affect on people’s wellbeing, all they think about is staying alive,” he said.
Dr Jerry Cowley welcomed the concept of support bubbles and pods to support people living on their own, saying that they were an example of the Government and public health officials thinking outside the box.
An outbreak of Covid-19 was reported to have occurred in the HSE run St Augustine Community Nursing Unit in Ballina which can cater for 33 residents. Dr Cowley said the biggest fear among GPs was that there will be further outbreaks in nursing homes around the county and that is why it is important to eradicate the virus from the community.
He added he is confident the number of cases will drop if people ‘continue to do what they have to do’ and is hopeful that things will have settled down by Christmas.

New numbers
The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mayo increased by 149 in the last week to bring the total number above the 1,000 mark for the first time, up to 1,071. There has been a sharp increase in confirmed cases in Mayo in the last six weeks with the figure standing at 600 on September 11.
The largest daily increase in cases occurred on October 20 and 21 when the number of cases rose by 36 but there was a gradual decrease over the next couple of days with 16 cases recorded on Saturday.
The number of cases in the last two weeks has risen by 332 in Mayo with the county’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population now standing at 254.4, a figure which was at 149.7 seven days ago.
The latest 14-day incidence figures per Local Electoral Area released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the HSE shows that on October 19 the incidence rate in the Belmullet Municipal District was at 325.4 which made it one of the highest in the country. The national average on that day was 279.3.
Over the 14 day period from October 6 to 19, there was 41 recorded cases in the Belmullet Municipal Area with close to all of them occurring in the Achill area.
There was also a sharp increase in cases in the Westport Electoral Area with 42 confirmed cases compared to only seven cases recorded for the previous 14 day period. This brought the incidence rate to 228.5.
The largest increase in cases was recorded in the Ballina Electoral Area with 48 cases recorded followed by the Claremorris Electoral Area with 47 cases and 44 in the Castlebar Electoral Area and 18 in the Swinford Electoral Area.
There are currently nine patients with Covid-19 related cases in Mayo University Hospital an increase of one person from last week.