BEING SOCIAL, KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE: Unknown a week ago, 'social distancing' is now seen as a vital strategy in combatting the spread of Covid 19 - giving a good demonstration of the technique in Farrell's SuperValu, Mitchelstown are friends, Jake O'Brien and Tasha Murphy. (Picture: John Ahern)

Social distancing, along with existing public health measures, is our best chance to stop the spread of the Covid-19 infection and protect those most at risk in our society.

Professor Mary Horgan, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland says that the actions we take now will greatly impact the outcome for Ireland.

“The outcome for Ireland from this new virus will be largely influenced by the actions that we all take now- the actions that we take as individuals and the actions that we take as a community and a wider society.

“It means that we will have to adapt our daily lives and routines. We, in Ireland, have shown solidarity during challenging times in the past and we can do this again if we work together for the greater good.

“Each of us individually and together as a society plays an important part in controlling the spread of the infection. We can forgo the social gatherings in favour of a social responsibility, to protect those for whom an infection could be critical.

“Everyone has someone who may be more vulnerable, an elderly parent, a friend with an underlying illness, a family member undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

“Team Ireland needs to get behind this – not only healthcare professionals, but politicians across parties and the public. There is an onus on us to protect the vulnerable in our society. Let’s show how we as a nation can band together to protect those people and shine our light brightly, even in these difficult days ahead.

“The implications of Covid-19 on our society has now heightened in light of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring it a pandemic and the announcement of deaths attributed to the disease in Ireland. This means that we have moved to a new phase and that public health measures now need to take priority,” said Prof Horgan.

Effective method

“We know that social distancing is a very effective method in stopping the spread of infection like flu and other viral infections. We have seen this work in China and South Korea.

“This is a further measure to add to what is already in place in Ireland and we should all be prepared to adapt to a new environment while we deal with this pandemic. New policies that may restrict movement and social gatherings will bring huge changes for all of us but can help to protect our population from this virus.”

“This strategy has been shown to work with controlling and eradicating other new infectious diseases in the past and it is particularly important for protecting those most at risk.”

“In general, the way all infections are transmitted between people can be contained and/or mitigated by adopting public health measures, many of which are already evident here. Covid-19 appears to be transmitted by respiratory droplets through sneezing and coughing. However, as the virus is new, there is not enough information to determine with certainty how easily it is passed between people.”

Concluding, Professor Horgan said that regular concise and clear communication is ‘essential’.

“Daily briefings and regular information updates from the expert team led by the State’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, are providing the most accurate and up-to-date information on Covid-19 in Ireland. That is the information that the public should be using to inform themselves and stay safe.”