Coronavirus – dealing with an emergency


Sir, – Many of my medical colleagues, though not members of the Public Health Expert Group, have been sharing their opinions on the airwaves and elsewhere. Their contributions are particularly welcome when they are supportive of the evolving message being delivered by Dr Tony Holohan, the chief medical officer at the Department of Health.

However, there are some who seem to feel compelled to speak in a manner which undermines his message, suggesting that we are not doing enough and that we did not move early enough.

It is my view that the chief medical officer and the expert group are doing a stellar job in delivering a clear message in a rapidly evolving situation, with very competent endorsement and articulation by our Government.

The decisions being made seem simple but they are not easy. By the time restrictions are formally recommended, it can seem to the public as if they have come a few days too late. But we are not all privy to the science and expertise which informs the expert group. Most doctors are not experts in all of the fields which inform these decisions, such as virology, epidemiology, behavioural psychology, risk perception and risk communication.

Furthermore, those who are formally guiding the public and influencing policy also have access to other data, including economic and psychological. They must consider the social and financial impact of decisions in policy formation and communication.

The evidence from these various perspectives can only be competently distilled by experts and then, with help from communications professionals, delivered clearly to the public.

In this dynamic and unprecedented situation, fear is almost as big an enemy as the virus itself.

Contributions which undermine trust in “the message” serve to promulgate fear.

When doctors who are not specialists in a relevant field of medicine or science, challenge or distort the message, they do a disservice to society.

As doctors, we should honour our privileged position in society, stay within our area of expertise and not allow our own fears to undermine the very measured approach being taken by our experts. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – As the Covid-19 pandemic worsens it is likely, and unfortunately inevitable, that doctors working in the front line will succumb to the virus and be unable to provide care for patients.

I am retired from hospital practice for some years but retain an active interest in scientific research and there are many doctors of similar mien in the country. Whereas age would preclude such doctors returning to undertake duties in hospitals or primary care, I suspect that many retired doctors who would be willing to give freely of their time to provide online advice to worried members of the public.

Perhaps the the HSE and the Medical Council might give consideration to this proposal which might alleviate the pressure on general practitioners and other doctors involved in the active care of patients. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – At a time when our vital GP service is coming under even greater and unprecedented pressure in terms of telephone calls and administration, would it not make sense to permit pharmacists to extend standard prescriptions by three to six months?

My prescription hasn’t changed in a decade so renewing it through my GP, assuming I would be able to get through, doesn’t seem to make sense as we face unique medical emergency and resource priorities. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I spotted a number of boats sailing on Dublin Bay yesterday. What a great way to isolate! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – I miss Brexit. – Yours, etc,


Douglas, Cork.

Sir, – Let’s all chew on raw garlic to remind others to keep their distance! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13

Sir, – In the present crisis maybe we should all remember that we are in the season of Lent, and bring back some fasting and penance. In other words, cut out the excessive supermarket shopping and give up the drink. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Congratulations are due to RTÉ. The past week has really illustrated the value of public service broadcasting. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – How uplifting to see the way Italians are deploying their musical and theatrical heritage to enrich their vastly curtailed lives during the current lockdown (“Italy resists coronavirus with cultural pursuits”, World, March 16th).

The spine-tingling sound of whole communities singing harmoniously from their windows and balconies is utterly life-enhancing. Bless the Italians – they have shown the rest of us how best to get through this surreal, bewildering and temporarily life-changing crisis. – Yours, etc,


Moate, Co Westmeath.

Sir, – Would it be too dangerous in the Ireland of 2020 to invite people to seek the intercession through prayer of Patrick, our patron saint, to assist us through this anxious time? – Yours, etc,



Co Louth.