Repeated infections with Covid-19 are on the rise, respiratory consultant Prof Seamus Linnane has warned, with some of his patients reporting they had been infected three and four times.
Prof Linnane, who runs the Long Covid clinic at the Beacon Hospital, said previously there had been “several months” of immunity after infection but that was not the case with new subvariants that were much more transmissible.
He was speaking as GPs reported a surge in Covid-19 cases among patients. Community spread is happening in early stages of the disease when people are symptomatic but are still negative on antigen tests, doctors warned.
Kildare GP and Adjacent Assistant Professor in General Practice at Trinity College Dublin Dr Brendan O’Shea said unvaccinated people were “taking up places” in hospitals and he urged such individuals to “get behind the science” and get vaccinated.
It was not a good idea for people to express themselves politically by not getting vaccinated, he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show.
“These people are choosing not to be immunised. Unvaccinated people are taking up places in hospitals,” Dr O’Shea said. “We need to protect the acute hospital system.”
Dr O’Shea also called on people to wear masks in public health facilities. He said nine out of 10 people who would come to his practice wore a mask. The tenth person would be asked to wear a mask, which would be provided.
Dr Louise Nestor of the Washington Street Medical Centre in Cork city told The Irish Times GPs are very busy with “with a lot of kiddies with a lot of sore throats and temps and sinuses that we reckon are Covid, but they are antigen negative when they are ringing you”.
Prof Linnane said reintroducing mandatory mask wearing risked the loss of public support. There was a challenge in finding a balance between what was advisable and what was mandatory, he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.
Mask wearing had an important role to play in suppressing the virus, and its importance should be highlighted, he said. Ventilation was also useful.
He added that Covid remained a risk even if cases as a result of the Omicron variant were half of those from the Alpha and Delta variants.
On Newstalk Breakfast public health expert Prof Anthony Staines, called on people to get the flu vaccine in the autumn as there was a risk of a combined Covid and flu surge in the winter. “We need to do everything we can to keep down numbers this winter.”
Hospital numbers were the best measure at the moment and numbers were going up sharply, he said, adding the consequences were too high.
Prof Staines echoed the importance of mask wearing. The virus was airborne so people needed to start wearing masks again on public transport and in crowded settings, he said.