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Health chief says Covid-19 war ‘can be won with communities’

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the country faces an ‘unprecedented time’ in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Paul Reid, Health Service Executive CEO (Brian Lawless/PA)

Paul Reid, Health Service Executive CEO (Brian Lawless/PA)

Paul Reid, Health Service Executive CEO (Brian Lawless/PA)

Health Service Executive chief Paul Reid has said the country faces into a “an uncertain, unprecedented and unpredictable” time during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking in Dublin on Friday, he said: “It is a war against a very silent and dangerous enemy. It is not one we can win with armed forces. It is one that we can win with communities.”

Mr Reid said the country must look after people who are well and those who are sick during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

“Our focus in the HSE is obviously to look after the sick but as a society we do need to make sure that we look after the vulnerable and the well, because this is a challenging time for everybody.

“The biggest thing I have learned in my career is the power of social communities, how they mobilise and how effective they can be.

“It certainly has been demonstrated to me in the past few weeks the one thing that distinguishes us from other European countries is the power of our communities when we mobilise.”

Mr Reid said there will be no need to worry about the number of ICU beds if the public adheres to health guidelines.

“We need to avoid the public shifting to debate on ICU care. We will avoid that if public can win that battle if we can ask them what we ask them to do.”

Ireland will experience a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases before social distancing measures start to make an impact, an infectious disease expert has said.

Professor Sam McConkey said he was “not surprised” by the increase in the number of cases of Covid-19 confirmed on Thursday.

A third person who contracted Covid-19 died in the Republic on Thursday, and 191 new confirmed cases took the total to 557.

Prof McConkey told Newstalk FM further social measures will have to be considered if the numbers fail to level off following the expected surge.

He said the figures follow an exponential curve model and he hopes that in the next five to seven days the number of cases will level off.

Prof McConkey said: “There are going to be significant numbers in the next four to five days. The health sector is bracing itself.

“If it does not level off, unfortunately we’re going to have to look at additional measures to flatten the curve.”

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

He praised people who have changed the way they live to help combat the virus.

Prof McConkey added: “The vast majority have changed the way we live our lives. I would encourage everyone to get on message with social distancing. That’s very important.”

The chairman of the HSE’s Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group said the increase in cases in the Republic is due to a combination of the increase in testing and the virus becoming more prevalent.

Speaking on RTE Prime Time, Dr Cillian De Gascun said: “We know that testing has ramped up significantly in the past few days – we have seven or eight hospitals testing and doing up to 1,600 tests per day. Two weeks ago, we were doing two tests per day.

“The more you test, the more you will find.

“From a public health perspective, we are still in the containment phase and we want to identify as many cases as we can, isolate them and do contact tracing.”

PA