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Compassion needed, not curfew


Belmullet community stressed and anxious enough says local TD

Áine Ryan

PEOPLE must be caring and compassionate for everyone grappling with the many stresses and challenges caused by the surge in the Covid-19 pandemic in north west Mayo, but there is no need for a curfew in Belmullet. That is according to Dáil Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh (pictured), who told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) that ‘the community is stressed and anxious enough already’ and needed hope and reassurance without the vista of a curfew.
“It is really important that people continue to ‘Stay at Home’ except for essential business. I do not believe a curfew is necessary at this time. If people follow the public health guidelines and regulations that are currently in place then that should be sufficient. People are suffering enough stress and anxiety already,” Deputy Conway Walsh said.
She was responding to a call by local GP Dr Keith Swanick for the imposition of a curfew in the remote Erris town after numbers of cases spiked over the Christmas and New Year period.
Figures released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) showed the Local Electoral Area (LEA) as having the highest incidence of cases per 100,000 in the country over the period from December 21 to January 4. The HPSC figures show 266 cases in the Belmullet LEA’s population of 12,600, which leaves a rate of 2,111.1 per 100k of population.
Newspaper reports state that local health experts believed the spike is mainly due to the high number of returning emigrants from the UK and the transmission of the mutated virus.  
However, Conway Walsh says: “There is no one simple explanation as to why the figures are so high here, but we do know areas like Belmullet have a very high emigration rate, and so it is understandable that families who hadn’t seen each other for a year would gather over the festive period.”
She added that the impact of the UK variant and its easier transmission is still unfolding throughout the country.

Pop-up centres
Conway-Walsh also highlighted the fact that people from the Erris area who needed tests had to make a three-hour round-trip to the testing centre at MacHale Park.
“This isn’t practical from a health and safety perspective. I asked the HSE at the beginning of the pandemic to establish pop-up centres in Erris,” she said.   
Ms Conway-Walsh also drew attention to the ‘bizarre underuse’ of Belmullet District Hospital, as well as the district hospitals in Swinford and Ballina.
“While Mayo University Hospital is overrun at the moment, there are eight patients in Belmullet District Hospital, which before all the cut-backs could cater for 41 patients. It is really time to shine a spotlight on resources for community health care.”
Rose Conway-Walsh added: “Plans for the vaccine rollout here in Mayo must be implemented as quickly as possible to protect our most vulnerable. This process must be transparent with at least weekly updates as to how many and what categories have received the vaccine.”
She also extended her ‘heartfelt sympathy to the families who have lost loved ones through Covid’ and wished ‘everyone who is currently ill a full and speedy recovery’.