Coronavirus – a public-health emergency

Sir, – I am a doctor working on the frontline of a major university-teaching hospital in Dublin. Our health system was at breaking point before the arrival of Covid-19 so the Government needs to develop a coherent, comprehensive national emergency plan for addressing this new impending health crisis in our hospitals.

I suggest that two of the major Dublin teaching hospitals should be designated Covid-19 hospitals for suspected or confirmed cases, with all patients complaining of respiratory symptoms being brought to and treated exclusively at these facilities. The other remaining hospitals could then deal with the non-respiratory illnesses. Similar approaches should be adopted all over the country with specific designated Covid-19 hospitals managing these patients, away from the general public and other vulnerable patients. This was a successful approach adopted for the management of TB in the past

Given that many outpatient appointments and elective procedures, as well as many surgeries, are now cancelled in most hospitals, it is now imperative that there is a systematic redeployment of medical and nursing and other staff to under-pressure, frontline areas in the health service.

An urgent all-Ireland plan for batching and siloing Covid-19 care needs to be developed and put in place quickly while our numbers of confirmed cases are still low. Better to be overprepared and ready than underprepared and paying the price. – Yours, etc,


(Specialist Registrar in

Endocrinology, Diabetes and General Internal



Dublin 4 .

Sir, – Human demand for meat means that huge numbers of animals, such as chickens and pigs, are crammed together on crowded, faeces-ridden farms, transported in filthy lorries, and slaughtered on killing floors soaked with blood, urine, and other bodily fluids. Pathogens flourish in such conditions, making factory farms a breeding ground for new strains of dangerous bacteria and viruses.

Public-health experts believe that Covid-19 originated at a live-animal market, and according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 75 per cent of emerging diseases originate in animals.

In this way, Covid-19 is similar to the other infamous outbreaks caused by coronaviruses: severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) – all three spread from animals to humans. Likewise, swine flu originated in pigs, and bird flu in chickens.

The best way to prevent future pandemics is for society to shift away from animal agriculture. – Yours, etc,



People for the Ethical

Treatment of Animals,


Sir, – In an interesting discussion of self-isolation during historic plagues, Juliana Adelman ("Coronavirus: what we can learn from Black Death", Science, March 12th) omits reference to the positive legacies that such measures generated.

If and when any of us are compelled to spend a period of time “confined to barracks”, it may be worth asking how others have converted such crises into opportunities. Boccaccio in the 1340s spent his time writing, producing a body of work that helped spark the Renaissance.

Three centuries later, Isaac Newton was forced to seek refuge on his family farm, fleeing a plague outbreak. There he spent his time thinking and experimenting, a process that revolutionised human understanding of the universe.

In any comparable scenario, we should try and emulate such achievements rather than simply sitting around, writing pointless letters to newspapers, and so on. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

A chara, – Self-isolation and working from home are both measures that will benefit people who are already quite privileged. It is obvious that there are a huge number of jobs that can’t be carried out from home, and self-isolation is impossible if people are sharing cramped (and overpriced) accommodation, which is the reality for thousands of people in Dublin.

Class will yet again be the unmentioned elephant in the corner. There are always more lifeboats on the upper decks! – Is mise,



Dublin 12.

Sir, – Donald Trump is compared to the mayor in Jaws in his approach to Covid-19 (Eoin Burke-Kennedy, "Hysteria or prescience? Ireland goes big with financial response to coronavirus", Business Opinion, March 11th).

As I remember it, the mayor of Amity was prepared to risk his own safety to prove his point; and when it turned out he was wrong, he immediately apologised, accepted responsibility and showed genuine remorse. Donald Trump may, in the future, exhibit all of these traits, but I am not holding my breath! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – We might soon witness the irony of the would-be King Trump being brought down by a virus with crown in the title. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – Donald Trump has described coronavirus as a “foreign virus”! Does that mean it is on holidays in the US? He also took time out to blast Europe and other countries for their slow responses to the pandemic compared to his country’s response. How come this man can never make a speech without bigging himself up and blaming others? I think he fails the grasp the benefits of a combined global reaction to this catastrophe. – Is mise,



Co Wexford.