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Dr Michael Harty has warned Covid-19 restrictions will worsen overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick. Photograph by John Kelly

Dr Harty appeals for support on Covid-19 restrictions

EFFORTS must continue to reduce the incidence of Covid-19 to ensure that in excess of 1,200 people don’t die from this disease in Ireland in three weeks’ time, a local doctor has warned.

Dr Michael Harty has appealed to people to stay at home, the elderly to “cocoon” and others to self-isolate for 14 days if they have any symptoms to try and reduce the worrying rising death rate in the country.
Having tracked the Covid-19 figures in different countries, he said the death rate in Ireland is 15 people per million compared to 207 per million in Italy.

The Kilmihil-based GP expressed concern about the increase in the number of patients requiring ventilation from 77 on Tuesday to 107 on Wednesday and this doesn’t include another 37 in ICU.

If a large number of people get Covid-19 around the same period, he warned ICU will be overwhelmed very quickly despite of extensive efforts to double capacity in the public and private sector within a very short space of time.

Three weeks ago, he warned that Italy had a similar death rate of 15 people per million and noted deaths from this disease in Ireland are now tracking at the same rate as Italy, which has imposed an even greater lockdown.

He estimates that Ireland is about 21 days behind Italy in terms of death rate and noted the daily figures for confirmed cases is actually a real indication of the infection in the community up to two weeks previously because of the incubation period and the time some people actually present with symptoms.

“Ireland is at the foothills of the surge in terms of the number of confirmed cases and the overall mortality rate.

“There is no medicine or intensive care intervention that will change this. The last person you want to meet is an intensive care physician.

“Anyone who needs to go into intensive care is at serious risk of succumbing from the disease. The virus is so contagious and is so unpredictable a healthy 80 year-old may have mild symptoms while a 50 year-old could get very severe symptoms.

“There has been one death in Ireland in the 24 to 35 age group and one in the 35 to 44 age group.
Youth and health doesn’t provide immunity to this virus. It seems to have affect health people and not just those who have chronic diseases or respiratory illnesses.

He said it has been suggested there is a tradition of different generations of the one family living in the one house in Italy and Spain, which would facilitate the rapid spread of this infection.

Considering this tradition is not widespread in Ireland, Dr Harty hopes that the peak of surge
in Ireland will not reach the same heights as in Italy for these socio economic reasons.

Following the additional of private facilities under public control, he pointed the government has effectively nationalised private doctors and consultants.

“It is like Sláintecare on speed. It is extraordinary that a health system that couldn’t be expanded under normal circumstances has been forced to double its size in the space of four weeks.

“Medicine is going to be completely different when this crisis is over. The place of private medicine is going to be diminished and hopefully the public system will hold on to some private services.

“I hope the next government will be able to recognise the importance of a properly functioning public health system, which has the capacity to withstand a shock like this,” he said.

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