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Masks should be worn on the capital's streets, warns infectious diseases expert


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Face masks should be worn on Dublin's streets as the latest figures show almost half of new cases of Covid-19 are in the capital, a consultant has said.

Dr Jack Lambert, a consultant in infectious diseases at the Mater Hospital, said mask wearing in congregated areas outdoors is a decision that "must be taken now". But he predicted the Government would not make this move for at least four weeks.

"It's not clear who's in charge in terms of Covid-19," Dr Lambert told the Irish Independent.

Last night's Covid-19 figures showed there were 138 new cases, 68 of which were in Dublin. The remainder were spread across the country, with Limerick reporting the second highest cases at 13, and Galway and Kildare having nine new cases each.

The latest cases were announced after the Sunday Independent reported Beaumont Hospital in Dublin had been struck by outbreaks of Covid-19, with three patients and two staff testing positive.

Three wards were closed and more than 10 staff deemed to be close contacts were asked to self-isolate at home.

Dr Lambert claimed there had been a number of outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes in recent days.

He said it was his belief that masks need to be worn throughout hospitals, including in cafes and offices, by medical staff.

"You need a mask in every situation and we are letting our guards down," he said, adding the use of masks is still not widespread enough.

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With Dublin's figures at a high level for a number of weeks, it is time to wear masks inside and outside on busier streets, he said.

"I was walking around Henry Street and Grafton Street and there were crowds but no one was wearing a mask," Dr ­Lambert said.

"If I was in government, it is the first thing I would bring in - masks in busier outside areas, that the public wear a mask in all urban situations. Obviously we need to do more than we are currently doing.

"There's such a fear, we are paralysed by it.

"We have to do something to improve best practice - that is, masks and social distancing because we need the economy to recover and mental health is suffering.

"We need to travel, to welcome visitors safely.

"We should open all the pubs and yes, we run a risk but we need to live safely with the virus."

Dr Laura Durcan, consultant rheumatologist at Beaumont Hospital, told Brendan O'Connor on RTÉ 1 she was "not alarmed at all" by the ­outbreaks at the hospital. "Beaumont and James's are the only hospitals in the country, as far as I'm aware, who are testing everyone who comes in for an overnight stay," she said.

"If you come into our emergency department or are admitted for an operation, we will stick an unpleasant swab up your nose and make sure that you are not going to be a risk to staff and other people around you.

"I would call this a success story. We hunt down a case and when we find it, we shut down the wards where the contacts are and we chase it out of the hospital.

"I think nationally, we need to start looking at if we need serial testing for our healthcare workers.

"We are doing it in nursing homes. Do we need to look at people who work in hospitals, who are working with vulnerable patients?

"We have masks on all the time but it does make me wonder, given the number of asymptomatic [cases] we pick up, whether we need to test more."

Beaumont Hospital was asked for a comment but had not answered at the time of going to print.

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