West Cork Rally cancelled • All parades called off • Teen disco cancelled
BY JACKIE KEOGH
& EMMA CONNOLLY
A RUN on hand sanitisers and anti-bacterial wipes has sparked Covid-19 fever and left supermarket shelves throughout West Cork thoroughly depleted.
The widespread panic buying comes as the number of cases of the deadly virus in Cork, and the entire country, rises daily.
With the situation constantly changing, schools and businesses in the area are putting contingency plans in place to operate remotely. The Department of Education, on public health advice, has announced the closure of all schools until March 29th at least.
Measures introduced by the Government to contain or delay the spread of the coronavirus include the cancelling of all St Patrick’s Day celebrations everywhere with Bandon among the first in West Cork to make the radical decision.
Many local events are victims of the virus as organisers are taking seriously the public health advice to avoid large gatherings.
The hugely popular teen disco at Ahamilla in Clonakilty was cancelled for this Friday as organisers said they felt having a large number of young people at an enclosed event would be ‘unwise in the extreme.’
This weekend’s Skibbereen Lions Club dinner has been called off and so has the very popular annual Butlerstown variety show, which was due to take place in a few weeks’ time.
Locally, all GAA fixtures are postponed until the end of the month. The West Cork Drama Festival, along with all the others on the amateur drama festival circuit nationwide, is cancelled.
Many local medical clinics are changing their work practices in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. This includes the Marino Medical Clinic in Bantry, which has notified its clients that it has decided, ‘in the interest of patient safety,’ to go to an appointment-only system, which means it is no longer a walk-in clinic.
The clinic has advised its patients that the medical team will not be providing house visits ‘for the present time’ and that this too is ‘in the interest of patient safety.’
The medical team at the clinic are, however, looking at the possibility of providing video consultations in the very near future. And they urged ‘everyone to work together to protect our community.’
Clients in need of medical attention are now being asked to phone reception and the person there will advise them further. Those who have an appointment are being asked to ‘please stay in your car, phone reception and informed them that you have arrived. Do not come into the surgery until directed.’
The notification also states that they will only allow one to two patients at any one time into the waiting room.
The clinic is aiming to reduce face-to-face contact by arranging to send a patient’s prescription directly to the pharmacy, whilst certs will be emailed.
Anyone demonstrating the symptoms of the coronavirus – such as a cough, a high temperature, and shortness of breath – should contact their GP or Southdoc by phone and explore all options available – including the possibility of being swab tested in their home.
Meanwhile, Richard Gough of Fields SuperValu in Skibbereen said every effort is being made to re-stock sanitising products. He said there was also a big increase in the sale of toilet rolls, tissue paper and toiletries because people want enough supplies to last a possible 14-day lockdown, or self-isolation.
Mr Gough said there had also been ‘a small bit of panic buying’ with people looking to fill their freezers. But there is also evidence that people are steadily increasing their weekly purchases of tinned goods, pasta, sauces and rice.
He said one woman – who drove to Skibbereen from Cork city in order to increase her stockpile – told him that Cork city had ‘gone bananas.’
People are being asked to be mindful of the fact that there are people who are continuing to do a normal weekly shop, and are only buying the essentials, because that is all they can afford.
One Skibbereen business that customers might not have considered when searching for anti-bacterial wipes is John O’Driscoll Motor Factors.
John O’Driscoll, a director of the company, told 'The Southern Star': ‘We’d always stocked antibacterial wipes but we ramped it up big time in recent weeks because there was such a massive demand.
‘The reason for that was because the traditional outlets – the likes of supermarkets and hardware stores – were sold out. We always stocked them because they are multi-purpose.
‘We had one or two people asking us if we could get more of them in, so we got on to our suppliers and most of them were sold out, but we managed to get 100 down from one supplier in Dublin – but they were gone in a day and a half.
‘People don’t know what they are dealing with. A lot of people are coming in because Fields and Drinagh are out of them, so it has been good to be able to put people’s fears to rest. At least if you have these, they are portable.’
Acting Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, acknowledged that many as 1.9m of the Ireland’s population could contract the virus, and that it could have serious or life-threatening implications for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
The medical conditions include those with: diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, cystic fibrosis and primary immunodeficiency.
Internationally, more than 100,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus and 3,460 had died by midweek. About 80% of cases and deaths are in China.
On Tuesday, 10 more cases of people contracting the virus were confirmed in the Republic, which brought the total on the island of Ireland to 50 (16 in the north and 34 in the south), including 12 in the south west. On Wednesday evening, as we went to press, the number of cases in the country had risen to 43, with one death.
The figure is still rising and was 70 on Thursday, 90 by Friday night and 129 on Saturday. There have been two deaths in Ireland caused by the virus so far.
In a further bid to delay the spread of the virus, strict visitor restrictions were introduced at Cork University Hospital (CUH) as well as the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork, where there’s been a case of the virus. Visitor restrictions are also in place at Bantry General Hospital, as a precautionary measure.
Skibbereen’s Emer Downing who lives in the tourist town of Bergamo, which is in the virus-stricken district of Lombardy, said she was ‘beginning to feel quite shut-off’ as the national lockdown continued.
Emer, a teacher, said there was widespread uncertainty in Italy, if they were even allowed to go for a walk or cycle, without risking prosecution.
She wasn’t sure if she could leave her house, and said she did a few laps of her communal garden and went up and down the stairs in her building a few times. ‘It’s a glorious day here, but I’m not sure if I’ll be arrested if I go outside,’ she said.
She also said it was quite contradictory that, while special documents were needed to entitle people to travel to work, bars and restaurants were still open from 6am to 6pm.
‘It’s been the subject of lots of heated debates here,’ she said.