Dr Tony Holohan has issued a stark wake-up call to Donegal to reduce the spread of Covid-19 before restrictions ease in May.
The Chief Medical Officer said there are clear examples of non-compliance across the county that “even the dogs on the street” know shouldn’t be happening.
NPHET reported yesterday evening that Covid-19 outbreaks in Donegal have been linked back to birthday parties, peer parties, secondary school students meeting up and socialising outside of school and social events linked to funerals and wakes.
Dr Holohan said the county now has a “window of opportunity” to reverse the trend over the next week to 10 days.
The alarming comments have prompted Donegal TD Joe McHugh to ask the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and NPHET to hold an urgent meeting with all Donegal Oireachtas members this weekend.
The national 14-day Covid incidence rate is now per 100,000 is 127.3. Donegal has the highest incidence rate in the country at 293.4, while local areas of Letterkenny and Milford are five times the national average.
As Ireland prepares to reopen sections of society, Dr Holohan said Donegal residents should avoid activities that are likely to increase their risk.
When asked if local restrictions could be imposed on the county if cases do not decrease, Dr Holohan said every action must be taken to lower rates.
“If it doesn’t, we’ll continue to step up our advice to the individuals who live there and the measures that they need to undertake to try and protect themselves,” he said.
“We haven’t arrived (at a point) where we need to do something different than that at this moment in time so, for now, over the course of the next week and 10 days as we all prepare for the measures that the government has agreed to, a lot of work needs to be done in Donegal and we’ll be doing it on the ground and at a national level with local authorities, public health teams, with additional testing and public health messaging to try and help people in Donegal.”
Dr Holohan added that the burden of the disease has been strongly felt in the county.
“We’ve had a lot of people in Donegal who have been sick and died in hospital as a result, and we recognise that impact. We really want to work to try and address that now,” he said.
Deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn added that NPHET was highlighting concerns this week in the hope that people in Donegal will respond positively, and take action, just as local bodies and clubs responded last summer.
Dr Glynn said: “We don’t want people in Donegal ending up in Letterkenny Hospital unnecessarily, and they will be protected with vaccination over the coming weeks. This is for everyone in those communities to take a step back and do whatever they can to protect each other.”