Wet pubs and schools reopening led to rise in Covid cases, says Mayo GP

Doctor calls for school approach to be kept under review as virus is ‘devious’

Dr Jerry Crowley said ‘social distancing got less important with every pint’. File photograph: Dara MacDonaill/The Irish Times

Dr Jerry Crowley said ‘social distancing got less important with every pint’. File photograph: Dara MacDonaill/The Irish Times


We should re-think our attitude to keeping secondary schools open, according to a GP who believes that schools and wet pubs have been significant factors in the sharp rise in Covid-19 numbers.

Co Mayo-based Dr Jerry Cowley who referred 29 of his patients for Covid tests on Wednesday alone, said he believed wet pubs were the “Trojan horse which allowed Covid back into the community”.

Similarly he questioned the consensus that schools must remain open at all costs , saying “schools have definitely been a factor in the slippage that has occurred”.

Calling for the situation regarding schools to be kept under review, Dr Cowley said that people might argue that young children were not spreaders but this was not the case with teenagers . “I think we should have a re-think [in relation to secondary schools]. This is a very devious virus . We should not have hard and fast rules. We cannot be ruling things in or out”.

The former Independent TD said there was no doubt that there had been a steep rise in the virus within the community, with older people now being affected.

“It is in the community now and so it will go to older people, who have been magnificent and who have been protecting themselves. They want to live and a lot of older people have been cocooning since March because they are dead scared”.

Dr Cowley said that even though there had been a lot of tourists in the Mulranny-Achill area over the summer, people had “behaved themselves” but once wet pubs opened “that was the beginning of the end”.

While he, like many others, had welcomed the return to normality, he had to admit in hindsight that “social distancing got less important with every pint”.

Welcoming the new concept of social bubbles, Dr Cowley also said that, while there had been a lot of talk about mental health in the debate about tightening restrictions, the bottom line for older people was that they wanted to survive.

“This virus is a killer that has absolutely no mercy. Even young people don’t know the damage it could do to their hearts and lungs . This is not a blame game but it is a learning game and what we are seeing now is that the virus is all over the place”.

While most people had made great efforts, some had started to drop their guard and the level 5 restrictions were “overdue”, he added.

Asked if the Government should have acceded to the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation to go to Level 5 earlier this month, Dr Cowley said: “I think maybe they should have. Tony Holohan is around a long time. I know myself that there is a lot of pressure on politicians and maybe they had people ringing them up saying how will I pay my mortgage and you can see how they might wilt.”

Despite the recent controversy about contact tracing Dr Cowley said his experience was good and patients had been getting tested and were getting their results quickly.

His biggest fear now was that the virus would get into congregated settings such as nursing homes, he said.

“What we are seeing now is that it is all over the place. I think when people practise poor social distancing and drop their guard a bit, that happens. I don’t think some people realised what they were dealing with, that this is really perverse. It is serious stuff”.

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