The HSE, An Garda Síochána and the local councils have appealed to people in Galway to stay vigilant and help to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
The three agencies have come together to highlight the seriousness of the public health risk in the county, where the daily infection rate is ten times higher than in the first wave.
Tony Canavan CEO of the Saolta Group said that there are a lot of very sick people in Galway’s hospitals and that this situation is likely to continue or worsen over the coming weeks.
“We are dealing with a huge increase in admissions and a significant strain on capacity,” he said.
“Our focus, across all hospitals in the Saolta Group, is to ensure that safe, quality and prompt healthcare can continue despite sustained pressure.
“However, we are asking the public to please do what you can to help save lives, adhere to public health measures, please stay at home and limit your contacts as every effort you make counts.”
Ms Chris Kane, General Manager of Galway University Hospital, commented on the concerning rise in cases in the region, where over the last two weeks nearly 2,800 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed.
As of 8pm yesterday, there are 126 people with Covid-19 at UHG – of whom 12 are in ICU. The highest number of patients at the hospital with the disease at any one time during the first wave was 18.
“We know that seven to ten days after diagnosis we will see the impact of an increase in cases in the hospital setting so are preparing for an escalation in admissions over the next days and weeks,” said Ms Kane.
“The hospital is under significant pressure but we are coping thanks to the tremendous efforts of our staff, many of whom are working additional hours to maintain high quality services.
“Now, more so than ever, is it vital that people stay at home and prevent the transmission of this virus.”
Dr Breda Smyth, Director of Public Health West said that Galway is one of the few counties in the country where the cases number continue to grow.
She said that the 14-day incidence rate is currently high in Tuam, Galway City and Oranmore.
“We need to recognise the risk that is around us. Remember that every person we meet is an infection risk and we need to stay apart,” said Breda Smyth.
“The only way that we can halt the spread of this disease within our community and force a downward trajectory is to go the extra mile. We need to stay in our homes and gardens and not have any visitors to our homes.
“Also, it is really important that anyone with symptoms calls their GP for a free consultation and self-isolates correctly by staying in their room to prevent the spread of the virus within the household, among loved ones.”
Head of Service for Older People in Community Healthcare West, Elaine Prendergast added that we need to continue to protect the most vulnerable in society and take personal responsibility for doing so.
“Our actions have consequences and by doing the right thing for ourselves we are protecting those closest to us and the wider community. Stay home when and where possible and continue to adhere to public health and Government advice,” she said.
An Garda Síochána has static and mobile checkpoints, as well as high visibility patrolling focused on non-essential travel in support of the Stay Home/Stay Safe message.
Since Monday January 11 Gardaí can prosecute breaches of travel restrictions under COVID-19 Regulations by means of a €100 on-the-spot fine.
Chief Supt Tom Curley of the Galway Garda Division said that the measures are in place to support the public health advice.
“The best way for people to protect themselves and others is to stay at home, and continue following the public health advice,” he said.
“Before getting in the car consider whether your journey is essential. Reduce the amount of people you meet. When taking exercise do so within 5km of home. This 5km zone includes the distance travelled to a location to exercise.
“We know it is particularly difficult for those who feel vulnerable or isolated. An Garda Síochána are here to help. Gardaí in Galway and around the country continue to help people with everyday tasks like collecting prescriptions and doing shopping.
“If you need help or know someone who does, please contact your local Garda station.
“An Garda Síochána has seen overwhelming public support for Public Health Guidelines and Regulations. The vast majority of people continue to comply with public health guidance at great sacrifice and we thank them for that. We must now stay the course.”
Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath also urged people to follow the public health advice and restrictions.
“The onus is now on each and every one of us in Galway City to be aware of, and adhere to, the public health guidelines and safeguards in place, so as not to undo the all the previous effort put in to suppressing COVID-19.
“The most effective way to keep safe is to ‘Stay at Home’ as much as possible.
“When leaving home for essential purposes, it is vital to adhere to social distancing and good hygiene practices while on streets, walkways or other public spaces.
“Galway City Council will continue to work closely with and assist other frontline and emergency services in the city to help protect the people of Galway at this crucial time.
“Our Community Call Helpline remains in place seven days a week on 1800 400 150 to assist those who cannot leave home or those in need of help. Together, we can all keep each other safe and get Galway down to the levels it needs to be at.”
Kevin Kelly, Chief Executive (Interim), Galway County Council said: “We recognise that people’s lives and routines have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways, however, it is clear that now more than ever we must all re-double our efforts and resolve to stay safe, support our frontline workers, safeguard our health services and save lives.
“It has been necessary for all of us to change the way we live our lives, but we must stay vigilant to halt the spread of the virus in our communities and county.
“We must encourage and draw strength from each other as we re-double our effort and determination to stay save, halt the spread of the virus and save lives. As a proud and strong county, let’s do it together. Ní neart go cur le chéile.
“We also understand that people may feel anxious and isolated, however, help and support is available.
We also renew our call to reach out if you need practical help or social supports via the Community Call Helpline on Freephone 1800 92 88 94 between 9am and 5pm daily.”