The vice president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, Dr Gabrielle Colleran has called on the public to maintain social distancing measures in the fight to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“Hospitals are not the front line, we are the last line,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.
“We will have to keep doing this in the weeks and months ahead.
"Huge efforts are being made by the HSE to create extra capacity in hospitals, but it would be easier for the health service if fewer people got sick and the way to avoid that was for the public to practice social distancing," explained Dr Colleran.
Hospitals are making “a massive effort” to divide patients into two streams – those with the virus and those without.
Dr Colleran said she was concerned about people who might be experiencing a heart attack or a stroke, but were afraid to go to hospital.
“We are keeping the two streams separate.”
"The revised criteria for testing were helpful as it meant health care workers could be tested swiftly and once cleared they could return to work, she said, as had happened to her recently when she had a cough.
“We’re making progress, but we need the help of the public.
“Our curve is still rising, so we need everyone’s help in flattening it.”
Meanwhile, the medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation, cardiac consultant, Dr Angie Brown has repeated the call for people experiencing heart-attack or stroke symptoms to seek medical attention.
Dr Brown told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that early intervention was vital in the treatment of heart attacks and strokes and that some people were leaving it too late because they were afraid to go to hospital.
"For the most part, it was right for people to avoid hospitals because of the coronavirus," she said.
"But if someone was having a heart attack they should go to casualty where they would be treated separately from patients with virus-related symptoms.
“Our message is to go to hospital if you think you’re having a heart attack or stroke.
“We are telling everyone to take precautions if you are vulnerable take even more precautions.
“It is important to keep calm and follow guidelines.”
"At the moment there are a lot of empty hospital beds as the health service prepares for the surge," added Dr Brown.