It’s been a while coming, but finally the easing of restrictions means those aged 70, and over, can now take short walks outside of their home or a drive within a 5k radius.
On Tuesday of this week we saw older residents across Fermoy, Mitchelstown and The Avondhu area take those first tentative steps beyond their doors and driveways.
But local GPs want to remind those who had been cocooning on a full-time basis, that these walks must be taken safely and not lead to settings in which people are likely to come into close contact with others.
“It’s been really difficult for those who are most vulnerable, but even if these restrictions are still tight they offer people some space for exercise and hope,” said Dr Donogh Cotter of the Family First Medical Practice in Fermoy.
He continued: “But this relaxation of measures does not mean over 70s should now feel they can safely pop to the shop, pick up their pension in the post office or call into the bank. The virus is still in our community, it will remain so for some time to come, so these walks need to taken away from others, not towards them.”
A nominated person
GPs have been keen to point out that there are safe and secure alternative options for people rather than going to post offices or banks in person.
It is possible, for example, for an older person to nominate someone else to collect their pension or withdraw a limited amount of cash from their bank account on a temporary basis.
To find out how this can be done just contact your local bank branch or post office and they will be able to help.
Alternatively, ask your nominated person to pick up a form in a branch or download one online.
‘You are not alone’
Dr Martin Gorman, of the Fermoy Rathcormac Medical Practice, said that those who have been cocooning and are finding the going tough, should get in touch with their local GPs.
He said: “We know that the cocooning has been isolating – especially for those who live alone or who don’t have family nearby. So, we would encourage anybody who is struggling to cope, who might be feeling anxious or depressed, to contact their GP by phone. We are here to help you and arrange further support if needs be. You are not alone, pick up the phone.”
This week the testing criteria was changed once again which means that anybody with a cough, fever or shortness of breath, can be referred by their GP.
“So now we can request testing for ANYONE who is displaying a relevant symptom – not just those in the priority groups. This is a really positive development and is crucial for ‘tracking and tracing’. It allows us to quickly identify people who are infected and then test their contacts,” said Dr Declan Herlihy of the Livinghealth Clinic in Mitchelstown.
Meanwhile, test results from nursing homes in the Fermoy and Mitchelstown area received so far have shown that there have been no outbreaks of Covid-19 to date. However, at the time of writing, there are still test results pending.
“All local nursing home residents and staff have now been swabbed. The results we’ve received so far have shown all to be negative which is good news. However, it’s very important to make clear, that we are still waiting on many more results. We’re very pleased to hear that the HSE is planning to continue regular swabbing at nursing homes enabling us to pick up infection in staff or residents quickly,” said Dr Charlie McCarthy of the Park Clinic in Fermoy.
Last week, through this column, we invited people to contact us with questions relating to Covid-19 and we’re very grateful to all those who got in touch. We highlighted two specific queries which we thought need to be addressed:
Question: Should I wear a mask when shopping in the supermarket?
The Taoiseach suggested on last Friday’s Late Late Show that we will soon be advised to wear face coverings in some situations – we expect this will mean in shops, supermarkets, banks, post offices, pharmacies and on public transport.
It’s important to remember too though that hand washing and keeping a two-metre distance are the most effective ways to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus. Cloth face coverings provide added protection BUT it is essential that you remove them from the back or ear loops– remember any virus will be on the front part.
The mask must be either disposed of or put in a bag and washed when you get home.
Also remember that a mask/covering should cover your nose and mouth. Avoid touching your face (or adjusting the mask) as this may lead to you transferring the virus from your hands to your nose, eyes or mouth where it enters your body. Surgical masks should be prioritised for healthcare workers while they are in short supply.
Question: Should I wear gloves when I go shopping?
Handwashing with soap, or using hand sanitiser, is more effective than wearing gloves as you can transfer the virus onto your hands and wrists as you remove the gloves.
Most shops are providing hand sanitiser, so you should use this as you enter the shop and wash your hands when you get home.
To send us your questions just email Avondhugp@gmail.com
For all the information you need on Covid-19/coronavirus and how to self-isolate then visit HSE.ie
The GP group in Fermoy and Mitchelstown will provide weekly updates in The Avondhu on Covid-19/coronavirus advice, specific to your local area.