GP: Shame over virus diagnosis ‘counterproductive’

GP: Shame over virus diagnosis ‘counterproductive’
Ma Dullea's public house/bar on Tower Street, Greenmount Cork City. during the Covid 19 global pandemic 2020.Pic; Larry Cummins 12/08/2020

A Cork GP has urged people not to shame others when it comes to possible Covid-19 diagnoses, saying it is “counterproductive” to fighting the virus.

Fianna Fáil councillor and former Lord Mayor, Dr John Sheehan, moved to quell the stigma surrounding the virus, after a series of rumours and accusations regarding a potential case of Covid-19 caused alarm among some residents of Cork City.

“It is counterproductive," he said. "Any of us could get Covid-19. We could be doing everything right and still get it. The difficulty with all this shame is that it makes people reluctant to go for testing and for contact tracing. It can make it harder to control the outbreak.” 

Dr Sheehan says that the stigma associated with a virus or illness isn’t a new trend, and that we have seen similar “shaming” before.

“We've seen this over the years. Years ago it was the fear of shame about TB because it was associated with poverty. In the '80s, it was HIV because people associate it with risky behaviour. Mental health has suffered from being associated with weakness.

“It does nothing in terms of our ability to control the outbreak. And that's a clear consistent message in terms of there is lots that each of us can do individually. So instead of trying to blame someone or put blame on people or on a group, we should keep with the message of distancing, handwashing, facemasks and looking out for each other. We follow the guidelines and I think that's the most productive way of doing it, because we're going to have more of these outbreaks,” Dr Sheehan added.

His message comes as a pub in Cork city closed over fears of an outbreak of Covid-19.

Speaking yesterday on the Neil Prendeville Show on RedFM in Cork, a spokesperson for Ma Dullea's Sports Bar on Tower St in the city said: “I became aware at 7.30pm on Saturday night that one person in a group of lads had tested positive for Covid-19. At that stage, I decided to close the bar at 9pm for public health and safety reasons as I was unable to contact the HSE at that time.

"The bar remained closed on Sunday even though I could have opened, and I had it fully sanitised and reopened at 1pm on Monday. Everyone in the lad's company has been tested, and all have come back negative bar one who is still awaiting a result.”

Dr Sheehan says it is important that we move past the shame before schools reopen.

"When the schools go back we're going to have clusters — they might be small clusters, but it's an inevitability that we're going to have them. We're going to have to be able to manage them without this whole shame and blaming and things like that.

"It is generated out of fear and concern, and that was the exact thing with HIV. It was fear that made people react like this. So by getting the clear consistent message out there that I could get it, you could get it, any of us could get it, and it might not be any of our faults, we could be doing everything right. And I think that's something that will go a significant way to alleviate concern."

More in this section