Ireland is ‘exactly 14 days behind Italy’ in terms of coronavirus cases

Doctors say Ireland will reach capacity quickly if we follow transmission model seen in other countries

Bars and shops across Italy have been closed as tougher restrictions were added to an already severe lockdown aimed to fight coronavirus contagion. All shops are now shuttered except supermarkets, food stores and chemists. Video: Reuters

 

Ireland is “exactly 14 days behind Italy” in terms of the rise in coronavirus cases, Irish doctors writing in the British Medical Journal have warned.

Critical care capacity will quickly be reached and services overwhelmed without an “effective and aggressive” public health response, they say.

This needs to include quarantine, social distancing, isolation of infected people, Dr Liam Glynn and Dr Mike O’Callaghan say.

Proper implementation is ultimately what will decide if we will end up “more like Bergamo, in Italy [where deaths continue to rise] than Busan, South Korea”, where the epidemic is being brought under control.

“The last 72 hours has seen significant escalation of coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, infection rates across Ireland with community transmission emerging across the country,” the two Co Clare-based doctors say in their letter to the BMJ.

As a result, simulations indicate Ireland is likely to see a significant increase in cases in the coming weeks.

Because of our lack of capacity in isolation beds and intensive care beds, Ireland will reach capacity very quickly if we follow the transmission model seen in other countries.

The two doctors, who teach at University of Limerick medical school, say China’s experience shows an effective and aggressive public health response can contain the epidemic, or at least reduce the number requiring critical care at any one time.

“It is imperative we trigger a radical public health response, without delay. If we wish to avoid an epidemic peak that overwhelms the health service we must flatten the curve of transmission.

“We are exactly 14 days behind Italy in terms of positive cases rising above 5 patients per million and adjusting our trajectory now with serious and radical efforts is our best hope to save as many lives as possible.”

The letter calls for an information campaign for the public on social distancing, the redeployment of healthcare staff to public health role such as triage, contact tracing and testing, high-volume testing and quarantine of infected people.