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Coronavirus: Belfast nurse who recovered from Covid-19 urges Government to ramp up testing

'If people have the symptoms they need to be tested'


Orlaith McCarthy

Orlaith McCarthy

Orlaith McCarthy

An NHS worker who has recovered from Covid-19 has called for immediate testing of people displaying symptoms.

Orlaith McCarthy, a play specialist at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, said the government needed to step in and take over private health companies who are currently selling the tests.

The mum-of three from Belfast, whose husband Conor, a radiographer assistant, also tested positive for Covid-19, said testing was imperative to stop carriers spreading it around.

And she echoed calls from the government and the NHS to stay at home and follow social distancing guidelines.

"The government needs to ramp up its testing of people who are symptomatic and to do this they need to take over the private firms selling these tests," said Orlaith.

"People shouldn't be sitting around having to guess if they have the coronavirus or not. The NHS needs to be carrying out tests immediately to find out how many people have it.

"People are paying so much attention to it now but it's not about worrying if you'll catch it yourself. That has to be flipped on its head. Everyone needs to be worrying about spreading it. We have a responsibility to the elderly and the most vulnerable. Lots of people are carrying the virus who will get better but it's all about the greater good and not passing it on.

"It's so important to practise social distancing. If you know someone who is on the high risk list, protect them as best you can by staying away." Conor, who also works at the Royal, began displaying symptoms first on St Patrick's Day including a fever and breathing difficulties. When he couldn't get through to his GP, he called 111 and was told everyone in the house - himself, Orlaith and their two younger children, aged 15 and 12 - had to self-isolate for 14 days right away.

Orlaith, who was off work for St Patrick's Day, had been due to return to the hospital the following day but rang her manager and explained that she wouldn't be in. By this stage, Conor's symptoms had worsened but Orlaith herself was displaying none.

"To be honest, I just thought he had a bad flu and I was sure that if he got tested, it would come back negative and I could return to work," she said.

"He spent a full day trying to get a test organised and was told to come to the pod for a test at 5.30pm on the Friday evening.

"I wasn't too anxious at this stage as I was convinced it wasn't the coronavirus. But then on the Thursday after St Patrick's Day, I began to develop symptoms too. Mine weren't as severe as Conor's. I felt shaky, had joint pains in my shoulders and neck and a bit of a dry cough, but I've had a worse cough before."

Orlaith tried to arrange a test through her GP but when that wasn't forthcoming, the couple was able to get her seen too at the pod at the Royal, after explaining that she was an NHS worker and was symptomatic.

"It was really tough to get tests arranged for the two of us but we wanted to know so we could get back to work," Orlaith said.

"I was really surprised when both tests came back positive."

The couple were told their youngest child, who had had a temperature the previous week, was most likely the first of the family to take ill from the virus. As the days passed in self-isolation, Conor's symptoms improved and then Orlaith recovered over the space of a weekend. They remain off work at the moment but Orlaith plans to go back late next week, when she is deemed safe and no longer contagious.

"Having the test come back positive changed my mindset about the coronavirus," she said. "I wasn't worried for myself but you do think about your loved ones. Thankfully I hadn't been to see my mum or granny from the previous Friday so my conscience was clear.

"If you have even a slightly raised temperature, be cautious as that seems to be the most consistent symptom with coronavirus.

"Self-isolation and social distancing are so important in stopping the spread."

Yesterday it was revealed that coronavirus tests for NHS frontline staff are to be trialled this weekend ahead of a wider roll-out to help those given the all-clear from the disease to return to work. Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the Government was working in a "new alliance" with universities, businesses and researchers to boost testing capacity.

Belfast Telegraph