Doctors urge Cork people to 'double-down' on efforts as Covid cases rise

Penneys store, nursing home, and two secondary schools all confirm cases
Doctors urge Cork people to 'double-down' on efforts as Covid cases rise

The Penneys outlet at Wilton Shopping Centre, Cork, where a staff member has tested positive for Covid. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Doctors in Cork are urging people to double-down on public health guidelines as the region’s Covid-19 cases rise.

Four separate premises across Cork City confirmed cases of Covid-19 today, with an employee at Penneys in Wilton testing positive for the virus, Care Choice confirming an 'incidence of Covid' at its nursing home in Montenotte, and two secondary schools reporting cases.

Care Choice identified a case of Covid-19 following 'proactive testing'. The home is liaising with the HSE and said it continues to care for residents and staff to the best of its ability.

Meanwhile, an employee at the Penneys store in Wilton in the western suburbs of Cork City also confirmed a positive case of the virus. The retailer initiated a detailed contingency procedure, should any other employees test positive.

They say they have been in touch with health authorities and a deep clean of the premises was carried out.

On the southside of the city, Douglas Community School confirmed two cases of Covid-19. A letter issued to parents indicated the transmission link was identified outside of the school. The two cases are linked, and a public-health risk assessment has been undertaken.

Parents of students at Coachford College received a text message from the principal this afternoon informing them that a case had been confirmed at the school.

As news of the different cases emerged, it was confirmed that special response groups which were set up across Cork City to help people during lockdown are ready to be reactivated if the Covid-19 situation worsens.

The reassurance came during a meeting of the Cork City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).

Dr Corinna Sadlier, an infectious disease consultant at Cork University Hospital, said there have been nine, 21, and 36 confirmed cases in Cork in consecutive days.

Community transmission is evident, she said, with a “silent reservoir of virus circulating looking to jump from person to person”.

In a tweet, she said cases are “seeded already for the coming week” but added: “Beyond that it’s in our hands.” 

Paediatrics specialist at the Bons Secours in Cork, Dr Niamh Lynch, said Cork’s most recent numbers were seen in Dublin about three weeks ago, and warned that what we do this week will play out in two weekends' time.

The city’s JPC was told that the Community Response Forum, which was established in late March to focus on vulnerable individuals and families during lockdown, is poised and ready to reactivate community response groups in 16 areas across the city and suburbs.

The inter-agency forum was formed with representatives of more than 30 organisations, including the city council, gardaí, the HSE, the Civil Defence, Order of Malta, Red Cross, and local sporting and community groups.

A hotline, manned by city council staff, was set up to field and then relay calls for help to the local groups, which in turn responded to whatever was needed, including delivering groceries, collecting medicines, taking people to medical appointments, collecting pensions, and even organising minor home and domestic appliance repairs.

The hotline dealt with 4,439 calls between March and September, rocketing from 29 calls in March, to 1,597 in April, and over 1,100 calls in both May and June, before tailing off to 161 in July, and 79 in August.

Denis Barrett, of the Cork City Community Response Forum, said three key issues emerged during lockdown: 

  • Food poverty and food distribution; 
  • The need for youth activity and a youth-focused response;
  • And the need to bridge the digital divide in several communities.

He said key to the success of the community response was having flexible, responsive local teams using grassroots local knowledge, all backed by various state agencies.

He said the forum is currently meeting monthly but is ready to reactivate the community response groups if the Covid-19 figures worsen and restrictions are tightened.

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