Many of us in general practice view the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic as being in households, workplaces, public spaces and community clinics, particularly GP clinics and GP co-operatives.
Even if worst predictions regarding Covid-19 transpire, most advice and care will be delivered by people working in primary care.
This is where people make decisions regarding their health, and consult with GP teams and community pharmacies - health care professionals of first contact.
Those of us working in this space have benefited enormously by a steady, timely and evolving stream of key advice from the HSE and the Department of Health on Covid-19. This advice has just changed. And it will change again.
In Ireland, we have transitioned from containment to mitigation. During containment, it was a reasonable aspiration that every positive Covid-19 case had immediate laboratory-based diagnosis. This becomes less important during mitigation.
Even though it is counter intuitive, people in charge of households and families could usefully try to take this on board. The change in importance regarding immediate testing has shifted from it being top priority to medium priority. Immediate testing has been replaced by social distancing, self-isolation as the top, immediate priority.
In general practice, the byword for the next weeks will be the 'duck test'. "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's probably a duck." People will be advised to self-isolate as an immediate first step if they have symptoms of viral respiratory tract infection, and then managed expectantly, depending on their circumstances, in the following days, for mild or moderate illnesses, particularly for people with low medical complexity.
Testing will remain important, but not for the reason most people think. As GPs, it is obvious from our consultations with people that individuals view their own test result as personally and deeply important, and therefore urgent. But it is neither of these in most cases. Testing is essential to give accurate information to public health and Government, for the purpose of allocating resources, and continuing to manage the pandemic nationally.
At the individual level, a positive Covid-19 result is mostly not likely to change your medical management. Don't panic if your test is on a five to seven-day time scale at this stage.
It's much more urgent and important for vulnerable people in your community that you immediately self-isolate if you have definite symptoms.
If your condition is getting definitely worse despite rest, fluids and paracetamol, contact your GP surgery. If you satisfy new criteria (fever and one or both of cough and significant breathing difficulty) advise your GP and a test will be requested, likely to be carried out within five to seven days. If you are deteriorating during this, advise your GP.
The HSE is retrospectively applying the new criteria - if you are on a waiting list for a test, unless your situation meets the new criteria, your test will be cancelled.
So why are some people still not practising social distancing? Non-conformers are out there, albeit in rapidly decreasing numbers.
Healthy people can make the unhelpful assumption, 'Sure, if I get it, I'll almost certainly be OK'. But a reducing number are not thinking beyond the assumption, where the bigger concern is 'who will I pass this on to if I don't practise social distancing and self-isolation?'
The answer is an exponentially increasing number of far more vulnerable people, for whom the infection may be lethal, particularly if it results in overwhelming ICU bed capacity, which is what has happened in Italy.
This is not the bubonic plague, tuberculosis or the Spanish flu of 1919 - its Covid-19, and it's happening on our watch. Keep calm, think, and carry on...
Dr Brendan O'Shea is Assistant Adjuvant Professor at Public Health and Primary Care, in Trinity College, and a GP in Co Kildare