Dr Una Fallon, Director of Public Health HSE, Midlands
Offaly currently has one of the highest rates of Covid-19 in comparison to other counties and local councillors issued an urgent appeal to people particularly in the Birr Municipal District to continue their efforts to drive the number of new cases downwards by adhering to public health advice.
Speaking at this month's MD meeting, Cllr John Leahy, an Cathaoirleach of Birr MD, issued the appeal on behalf of all of the councillors after recent figures showed that Offaly, and in particular the Birr MD, continued to have high rates of new Covid-19 cases.
“We are asking people to exercise the guidelines that are there at the moment. We appreciate people are weary with this but we can't have numbers starting to drift up again. This is considering we have so many nursing homes in the area. I know that they are well protected now but we have so many elderly people living in our rural areas that we are asking people to just hold tight and be patient with it. And, I know that everyone out there is doing their best on it.”
In a statement to the Tribune, Dr Una Fallon, Director of Public Health HSE, Midlands, assured people that while there's no reason to be alarmed, it's important to continue in our efforts to drive the number of new cases downwards.
Outbreaks are occurring in a wide range of settings including families and workplaces and no one setting, incident or outbreak is driving the current numbers. The new variant of the virus that is currently circulating appears to be spreading more easily than the old, so people must try even harder to keep themselves and others safe.
According to Dr Fallon, it is really important, for all of the Midlands counties – Longford, Westmeath, Laois and Offaly - to reduce the numbers of new cases occurring in our community. "Everybody has a part to play. Now is not the time to become complacent," she continued.
Within the Home
Giving the following advice, Dr Fallon said: “Within the home, if you develop symptoms of COVID-19 please contact your GP and request a test. Sometimes even minor symptoms including aches and pains and headache can be COVID-19 infection. As soon as you become unwell, isolate yourself to protect others around you particularly your family and your extended family. This is particularly important if any of your family members are elderly or medically vulnerable, either because of chronic illnesses or because their immune systems are weakened."
"If you think you might have COVID-19, the best thing you can do to protect everyone in your household is to isolate yourself, this means staying in your room and separating yourself from others in the house. Keeping your distance and wearing a face covering will help too, and of course, don’t forget to wash your hands."
Continuing, the public health doctor outlined: "Essential workers have sustained us in various ways throughout the last year and we are grateful to them. If you are an essential worker we know that you have been working hard to make sure we have essential care, supplies, foods and services. But it is still really important not to go to work if you suspect you have COVID-19 and to contact your GP as soon as possible to arrange a test."
"As an essential worker you may need to interact with other workers, or with members of the public. This does put you at risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. There are things you can do to reduce the risk of you getting the infection and of spreading it to others.
"These include keeping your distance from others as much as possible and keeping your interactions with others short, wearing face coverings, and washing your hands often. Try not to car-pool or travel with others to work."
According to Dr Fallon, the Department of Public Health Midlands is here to support employers, particularly if employees or clients are diagnosed with COVID-19. The support they offer includes managing outbreaks of COVID-19, offering extra testing and identifying ways to stop COVID-19 from spreading in the work environment.
To prevent further spread of COVID-19 it is so important that people who might have COVID-19 are identified and excluded from work as soon as possible, as well as getting tested for COVID-19. Mass testing, where they offer testing to a workforce or part of a workforce is also a really important tool they use to help to control outbreaks of COVID-19.
“I am appealing to the whole population of the Midlands to please hold firm while waiting for your vaccine. We know this is a hard time for everyone. But with a more infectious strain of COVID-19 circulating it is more vital than ever that we continue to do all we can to protect ourselves, our families and loved ones, and our community,” the public health doctor appealed.
“Sometimes the darkest hour is just before the dawn. Don’t forget to mind your mental health. Keep up your healthy routines, get enough sleep and continue to exercise within your 5k. Stay connected with your family and friends, even if we can’t be physically together we can use technology to keep in touch. We can do this. It is all of us, together, against this virus,” she added.
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