Coronavirus – the need for vigilance

 

Sir, – Many people have been showing great support to the healthcare workers that are on the “frontline’’. I have had people asking me what they can do to support doctors and nurses in the fight against coronavirus. This is a heartwarming sentiment but it also shows a huge misunderstanding of what is actually going on here. The frontline is not in hospitals. The frontline is where you are, out on the streets. If we are using this war analogy, doctors and nurses are not the soldiers. They are still just the doctors and nurses, dealing with the casualties of war. It is the everyday citizen who is the soldier. It is you who is playing the most important role in fighting this disease. We do not have medicine to treat this virus. Prevention is the only way to fight this. Prevention is up to every one of us.

There are two things about viruses that we all must understand. First, they require hosts to spread. They cannot replicate by themselves. Every time you come into contact with someone you are giving the virus a chance to spread, to replicate, and become more powerful. Every time you decide to avoid contact with someone new, you starve the virus.

Second, viruses spread exponentially. Every time you come into contact with someone new, you are not just putting that person at risk, but also all the people that that person comes into contact with, and all the people that those people come into contact with. Every time you meet one person, it will affect an untold number of people, many of whom will have weaker immune systems than you, and will suffer severely. It is your duty to protect these vulnerable people. I cannot stress this enough. It is the decisions that you make that will decide the course of this disaster.

Social distancing is the most important intervention we can all carry out. It is our greatest weapon. If you can self-isolate for at least two weeks you will help flatten the curve and you will save countless lives. That is the gift that healthcare workers are praying for. Please be our heroes! – Yours, etc,

Dr COLM HARRINGTON,

Salthill, Galway.

Sir, – As the rest of the retail trade, including pubs, are in lockdown, supermarkets remain one of the few places of gathering and ultimately high-risk sites of infection. To date, I have been appalled by the lack of attention to basic procedures in my local supermarket in Dublin to enable shoppers to protect themselves and staff from infection.

There were no clear controls on the numbers of people entering the store; no means to wash hands on entry or on exit – and no monitoring thereof, both being necessary to curtail contamination; baked goods and produce were exposed without coverings allowing contamination from cough and sneezing. I also witnessed sporadic cleaning of trolleys and baskets by staff, seemingly unaware of any protocol on glove use.

Supermarkets need to be a focal point for better controls as currently they are an infectious environment. Better guidance and practice is needed to bring them in line with supports available in healthcare units. Similar protocols should be followed at this vital time. Supermarkets needs to enhance existing procedures such as social distancing to enable shoppers protect themselves and the frontline staff who are most at risk. We, as shoppers, should demand our supermarkets do more to protect us and slow the spread of Covid-19. Guidance for the Business and Retail Sector provided by the HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre is available, but lacks detailed guidance for supermarkets and other food outlets. Members of the Irish Global Health Network would like to see more detailed guidance, comprehensive practice by supermarkets and oversight by relevant authorities to ensure both staff and the public are protected. In the meantime, I would urge customers and staff in supermarkets to remain vigilant of their behaviour. – Yours, etc,

NIALL ROCHE,

Irish Global Health Network,

Mercer Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – In my 27 years of working as a vet, I have time after time seen medical evidence of the value of fresh air. For much of my career, I have had an interest in respiratory medicine. In racehorses, for instance, those most delicate and frustrating of nature’s athletes, a clean flow of air through a well-ventilated environment is often the difference between a Cheltenham winner and an also-ran.

Viruses and bacteria love warm, stuffy, poorly ventilated rooms. Viruses and bacteria love recycled air, air-conditioning, high humidity and overheated rooms with the windows closed.

Yet many of our public buildings, shopping centres, waiting rooms and even hospitals are maintained exactly to suit the survival and spread of airborne germs.

In these times of contagion we will see all the images of medical personnel gowned and masked in the course of their risky and selfless frontline duties. However, they are often working in poorly ventilated buildings without adequate fresh air to support the recovery of inflamed lungs.

A greater emphasis on sunlight and ventilation at home or hospital will greatly assist all of us in avoiding and even defeating Covid-19, in conjunction with all the other disinfection and distancing measures. – Yours, etc,

Dr DES GROOME,

Veterinary Surgeon,

Kildare.

Sir,– It is good news that the banks are giving some customers mortgage breaks (“Banks agree mortgage breaks and repossession deferrals”, Business, March 19th).

I hope that they will apply these breaks unconditionally to all mortgage holders from April. – Yours, etc,

HUGH McDERMOTT,

Dromahair, Co Leitrim.

Sir, – Social distancing has replaced sociability. “We” transforms to “I”. What most links us now is a shared experience of vulnerability. – Yours, etc,

DAN DONOVAN,

Dungarvan,

Co Waterford.