Dr Motherway said this surge is different from what we saw in March as significant pressure has been put on the health system
The country cannot go back to celebrations as we had at Christmas until everyone is vaccinated, said a top ICU doctor.
Dr Catherine Motherway, former president of the Intensive Care Society and current head of ICU at the Mid Western University Regional hospital in Limerick, said the opening of society has to be “really really careful”.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, she said: “We can’t go back to things like Christmas until every one of us is safe and vaccinated across the world, as well as in this country.
“I think there has been a real realisation now that the opening up of society has to be really really careful and we have seen first hand what this can do to our healthcare service.”
The ICU doctor said she believes that as a whole people are complying with restrictions, and that as a community we have discovered that we can “no longer socialsie in a discretionary manner while we are not an immune population.”
However, she added that as a nation we will be social distancing for quite some time, and the length for how long this will be in place needs to be spoken about in months and not weeks.
"I think we as a community now need to realise that there's going to be a significant restriction on the way we used to live, we all have to continue to social distance for quite some time, for months not weeks,” she said.
"We need to stop talking about weeks and start talking about months and if we can roll out our vaccination programme we can hopefully get back to something like what we used to consider normal in this country.”
Dr Motherway explained that this surge is different from what we saw in March as significant pressure has been put on the health system.
“In March we prepared, we shut and we did it really well,” she said.
"This time around we have a lot more staff who are sick and out, it’s a lot more stretched of a system and as you can see the numbers are much higher this wave than previously because of the amount of viral transmission that occurred over winter because we were indoors and we had the social events at Christmas and indeed the new variant that has emerged.”
The ICU doctor added that it’s an “absolute tragedy” that her hospital and many others have had to stop providing elective care due to the surge.
She said: “We have had to stop providing elective care across the healthcare system which is in my mind an absolutely huge tragedy for an awful lot of people that have been waiting for surgery for quite long times and now they have to wait longer because of the pressure on our healthcare service, so we really need everybody to obey the public health guidance.”