Public Health expert says border not cause of Covid-19 rise

Parties and lack of social distancing blamed for increase

Public Health expert says border not cause of Covid-19 rise

Public Health expert says border not cause of Covid-19 rise

The alarming rise in the Covid-19 infection rate in Donegal is not due solely to cross-border travel and has been caused by socialising in groups and a lack of social distancing, a leading public health expert has said.

The rate of the disease in the peninsula has soared over a two-week period leaving the peninsula with one of the highest incidence rates in the country. Rates across the border in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area are even higher, among the highest in Europe. 

However, Dr Anthony Breslin, director of public health with HSE North West, said that while cross-border travel is not helping the situation, the rise has been caused by people not doing what they should be doing

Dr Breslin said: “Obviously, we do have a linkage with the North. However, cross-border travel is not the cause of the increase in positive Covid-19 cases. It is not helping. But even with that, if people did what they should be doing, that would go a long way to controlling the situation.

"Cross-border travel has happened in that area for a long time with people going to schools and working and shopping on both sides and that is just the way it is. If people did what they should be doing, I would be happy with that.

"If people are doing what they should be doing, they should not be picking up the virus. If a person is standing in an office or a shop or at work and they are socially distancing, wearing a face-covering and observing hand hygiene, if they are doing all of that, they should not be passing on the virus and you should not be getting the virus. If you are sick, stay at home and if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive stay at home. However, we know people are not doing that.

“People got away with it during the summer because there were not many cases around but now, obviously we have a lot of cases, so if they do not socially distance, do not wear the mask, they are going to pick up Covid-19 and they are going to pass it on. It is not rocket science. Covid-19 gets into a community because people are not doing what they should be doing. On top of that, people were having parties and Christenings and retirement dos and when they were going out to restaurants they were not doing the social distancing. People were going to pubs and they were not doing the social distancing. I am not saying in all pubs but in enough. And also, unfortunately funerals. There were a number of funerals and people were not sticking to the guidelines,” said Dr Breslin.

The public health specialist said the coronavirus spreads “very easily”.

He added: “We cannot go back to where we were 12 months ago. But we want to back to as much of it as we can.

“The schools have opened and they have been very successful, which is due to the pupils, the parents and the staff. At the moment I do not have any concerns about schools as a group. The schools are rigorous and fair play to them. It has worked out. Most of our cases in schools have been picked up in the community.

“However, the fact was that people did have birthday parties and Communion parties and retirement parties, all age groups. They had too may and did not do the social distancing.

“People thought when granny came into the house, for the Communion party or the Confirmation party, social distancing, mask wearing could go out the window but the virus could still be passed on. If your neighbour comes into your house for a cup of coffee, you have to socially distance. People forgot that and if you have a large number at your your party, obviously it is much harder to socially distance, especially when you have kids. That was the idea behind controlling the numbers. But if people do everything, we will reduce the numbers, We will not get rid of Covid-19 totally but we would get it down to a manageable number,” said Dr Breslin.

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