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No taking the eye off the ball


NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO RELAX  Belmullet GP, Dr Fergal Ruane.

Belmullet GP warns restrictions must continue despite falling Covid-19 numbers

Anton McNulty

A BELMULLET GP has called on the public to remain vigilant and adhere to public health guidelines, despite a drop in the number of Covid-19 cases and referrals for testings.
The number of the confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mayo dropped during the last week, but the 14-day incidence rate is still one of the highest in the country, with over 90 Covid cases in Mayo University Hospital.
The Belmullet Electoral Area has one of the worst rates of Covid in Europe, but a local GP, Dr Fergal Ruane, said symptomatic presentations have eased over the last week.
“It has certainly quietened down, and I haven’t actually referred anyone this morning [Monday],” he told The Mayo News.
“This morning there were no new symptoms or referrals. I think it was the first day since Christmas when I haven’t referred anyone for a test.
“Last week we had 50 referrals done, which is way down, but we still had 12 positive cases just from my practice. Over a period of a fortnight, I had 450 referrals counted up; that was the level we were running at, but it is no where near that now. There is definitely an easing off, thank God.”
Dr Ruane said that the drop of new cases and referrals shows that the people of Erris have taken on board the need to isolate. However, now is not the time to relax, he said.
“I hope to see them [case numbers] drop significantly over the next fortnight, but vigilance is always needed. You hope the numbers will go down, but I have to reiterate that people have to continue the restrictions and follow the guidelines. You cannot make the assumptions that the numbers will drop off and we will be grand again … we cannot take our eye off the ball even if it is tough.”

‘Numbers rocketed’
The Belmullet-based GP confirmed that he had tested positive for Covid-19 but he said he was still healthy enough to be able to take calls over the phone.
The number of cases in Belmullet was so high that it made national and international headlines. Dr Ruane said that all though he had been expecting a post-Christmas spike, he was not expecting the severe outbreak that had occurred.
“I had a suspicion there would be a spike but once I got back to work after Christmas the numbers just rocketed, and the amount of referrals we were doing was crazy. It was none stop from morning to evening.
“I think around here what happened happened, but it was a minority of people. The bulk of people around here were adhering to the regulations, and they weren’t all partying everyday. The whole country has been taken aback by what has happened, and if you don’t follow the guidelines this is what can happen and unfortunately Erris shows it.”

Sympathy and gratitude
The Covid-19 figures in the region were raised at yesterday’s monthly meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District, where sympathy was expressed to the loved ones of all those who died recently from Covid.
Belmullet-based councillor and Cathaoirleach of the municipal district, Seán Carey praised the response of the local community.
“Erris is a close knit community and the people are very caring and compassionate and the last few weeks have demonstrated that Meitheal is alive and well in Erris. The Erris community are supporting each other to get through this. It is important that we highlight and acknowledge this, and all the frontline workers and everyone providing essential services. Stay home and stay safe,” he said.
Fellow Erris councillor Gerry Coyle said the last few weeks have been rough, and he thanked all the people who have offered their assistance to help others, stressing that Erris will get through this difficult time.
Westport-based councillor Christy Hyland said it was time for people to start listening to the experts in NPHET and the medical professions, and he criticised the Oireachtas members who had called for restrictions to be lifted before Christmas.
Cllr Peter Flynn added the last few weeks have shown what can happen, and that everyone has to play their part and stay at home.
“The message is loud and clear, and we need to stay away from people. There has been some tragic stories over the last few weeks … we all know people who have died from Covid now. It is a reality, and not a bad flu,” he said.