While expectations have grown that Covid-19 restrictions could be lifted in the coming days GPs locally fear we’re not yet ready to return to familiar ways.

The required level of testing, within the community, is still not in place and without them medics here fear we could see the number of positive cases of Covid-19 grow once restrictions are lifted.

Dr Catherine Clifford, of the Park Clinic in Fermoy told The Avondhu this week: “To be able to significantly lift restrictions we have to start with a low number of infections and must be in a position to quickly test anyone with symptoms, then rapidly trace and test contacts of positive cases.

“Testing turnaround has improved but we are not yet where we need to be. Results are now sometimes back in one or two days, but sometimes take nearer a week and this is too long.”

She continued: “Contact tracing is also not as rapid as we would like. During this time waiting for results and identifying contacts, a person’s infected contacts can be unknowingly spreading the virus. If the only contacts are within your own household, as is the case for most people during the lockdown, the number is limited.

“But if a person is going to work or to the shops and meeting friends, then there could be a devastating spread.”

And she said that while we wait for a vaccine, which could be up to 18-months away, we have to be so careful in every aspect of our lives.

“Although we are happy to hear of human trials starting on Covid-19 vaccines, we are many months away from a vaccine or treatment, so limiting the number of people getting infected is our ONLY means of defence.”

‘Behave as though everyone, including you, has the virus’

A change in the testing criteria this week now means more people are likely to be referred for Covid-19 testing.

Dr Brian Carr of the LivingHealth Clinic in Mitchelstown, explained: “Now we can request a test for someone with any single symptom of fever or cough or shortness of breath where there is not another reason for their symptom – but tests are still limited to priority groups.

“It is expected that testing criteria will be changed again, ideally so that anyone with symptoms can be tested once there is capacity. The other important benefit of more testing is that more people are able to leave isolation sooner, if a test is negative a person can leave isolation 48 hours after their symptoms have resolved.”

But Dr Rosemary Beecher in Conna explained there will still be many who have the virus but no symptoms. She said: “Around 50% of infected people have no symptoms at all. As well as that, for people who do show symptoms they can be infecting others for two days before they start to feel unwell.

“The only way of reducing spread from these people is to behave as though everyone, including you, has the virus. This is why we are all advised to keep two-metre distance from others and to wash our hands frequently.”

Keep a routine & stay in touch

As we come towards the end of another week of restrictions many, especially those cocooning, may be finding the isolation difficult.

Dr Sura Aldeen of the Fermoy Rathcormac Medical Practice, has this advice for people.

“We know that the restrictions are frustrating for many. It is important to keep a routine to your day, take daily exercise within your house or garden, find ways to relax and to keep in contact with friends and family by phone.

“The best way everyone else can support those who are most at risk of getting seriously unwell with coronavirus, is to keep working to reduce the spread of this deadly virus.”

For all the information you need on Covid-19/coronavirus and how to self-isolate then visit HSE.ie

Weekly updates

The GP group in Fermoy and Mitchelstown will provide weekly updates in The Avondhu on Covid-19/coronavirus advice, specific to your local area.

Next week GPs will answer some of your questions about coronavirus, please e-mail any questions you have to Avondhugp@gmail.com