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CITY TRIBUNE

Taoiseach orders two-week lockdown in Ireland

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced severe restrictions on movement over the next fortnight in the Government’s next step in the battle against Covid-19.

At a briefing tonight, Mr Varadkar ordered everybody to stay at home from midnight until Easter Sunday (April 12).

“At the beginning of this emergency, I told you there would be difficult days ahead. These are radical actions aimed at saving as many people’s lives as possible in the days and weeks ahead,” he said.

He announced the following

Everybody must stay at home in all circumstances, except for the following situations:

  • To travel to and from work only where the work is essential health, social care or other essential service that cannot be done from home (a list of these will be provided, although it is understood this will not be published tonight).
  • To shop for food or household goods or collect a meal.
  • To attend a medical appointment, collect medicines and other health products.
  • For vital family reasons, such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people.
  • To take brief, individual, physical exercise within 2km of your own home which may include children from your Own household, as long as you adhere to 2-metre physical distancing.
  • For farming purposes, that is food production and the care of animals.
  • All public and private gatherings – of any number of people outside of a single household or living unit – are prohibited.

“Sadly this prohibition includes social family visits that are not for the vital reasons which I already mentioned.

“A further range of non-essential shops and services will be closed. The guidance given earlier this week in respect of essential retail outlets will be revised.

“Community centres will be shut, all non-essential surgery and procedures postponed. All visit to hospitals, care homes will cease, except on compassionate grounds.

“Cocooning will be introduced for all those over 70 years of age and specified categories of people who are especially vulnerable to Covid-19. Detailed guidance will be available.

“Travel to our offshore islands will be limited to residents of those islands.

“Pharmacists will be permitted to dispense medicines outside of permitted period of validity of existing prescriptions.

“All public transport and passenger travel will be limited to people providing essential services.

“There should be no travel outside of 2km radius of your home,” said the Taoiseach.

GUIDANCE ON COCOONING:

This document summarises interim recommendations for protecting those over 70 years or those who have an underlying health condition which may make them extremely medically vunerable to COVID-19 infection.

It is based on the current knowledge of COVID-19 and has been adapted from Public Health England guidelines, HIQA rapid evidence review and HSE Consensus COVID-19 Advice for At Risk Groups.

Readers should not rely solely on the information contained within these guidance. This information is not intended to be a substitute for advice from other relevant sources including, but not limited to, the advice from a health professional.

Background and scope of guidance

This guidance is for people over 70 years of age, those who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of an underlying health condition, and for their family, friends and carers.

It is intended for use in situations where the extremely medically vulnerable person is living in their own home, with or without additional support or in long term residential facilities.

Cocooning is a measure to protect people who are over 70 years of age or those who are extremely medically vulnerable by minimising all interaction between them and others.

We are strongly advising people over 70 years of age and those with serious underlying medical conditions (as listed below) which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to rigorously follow cocooning measures in order to keep themselves safe.

What we mean by extremely medically vulnerable*

  • people aged 70 years or over
  • solid organ transplant recipients
  • people with specific cancers

(a) people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer

(b) people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment

(c) people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer

(d) people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors

(e) people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs

  • people with severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  • people with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  • people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

*or any essential/key worker advice should be sought from Occupational Health who can give specific advice on individual conditions.

Cocooning is for your personal protection and if you are unsure whether or not you fall into one of the categories of extremely medically vulnerable people listed above, you should discuss your concerns with your GP or hospital clinician.

All other people should stringently follow public health guidance on physical distancing.

What you need to know

If you are over 70 years of age or have an underlying medical condition listed above, you are at very high risk of severe illness as a result of COVID-19.

Cocooning is a practice used to protect those over 70 or those extremely medically vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus.

You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of 2 weeks from today (March 27th). This period is being kept under review.

Visits from people who provide essential support to you such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care should continue, but carers and care workers must stay away if they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19. They may find this guidance for Health and Social care workers who visit homes useful. All people coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival to your house and often whilst they are there.

You should have an alternative list of people who can help you with your care if your main carer becomes unwell.

If you have someone else living with you, they are not required to adopt these protective cocooning measures for themselves. They should do what they can to support you in cocooning and they should stringently follow guidance on physical distancing, reducing their contact outside the home. They should wash their hands thoroughly and regularly, especially upon arrival home and observe good respiratory etiquette at all times.

If you care for but don’t actually live with someone who is extremely medically vulnerable you should still stringently follow the public health guidance on physical distancing.

What is cocooning

Cocooning is a measure to protect those over 70 years or those extremely medically vulnerable by minimising interaction between them and others. This means that those who are over 70 years or those extremely medically vulnerable should not leave their homes, and within their homes should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household. This is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 from coming into contact with the virus.

If you are over 70 years of age or have a condition which makes you extremely medically vulnerable (as listed above) you are strongly advised to cocoon, to reduce the chance of getting COVID-19 and follow the face-to-face distancing measures below.

The measures are:

  • strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
  • do not leave your house
  • do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces for example family homes, weddings and religious services
  • do not go out for shopping and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact
  • keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
  • do use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services
  • ensure you keep phones/devices charged, and have credit on your phone so that you can stay connected

We know that stopping these activities will be difficult. You should try to identify ways of staying in touch with others and participating in your normal activities remotely from your home. However, you must not participate in alternative activities if they involve any contact with other people.

This advice will be in place for 2 weeks from 27 March 2020. This period will be kept under review.

What you should do if you have someone else living with you

Whilst the rest of your household are not required to adopt these protective cocooning measures for themselves, we would expect them to do what they can to support you in cocooning and to stringently follow guidance on physical distancing.

  • you should stay away from other people in your home most of the time in a well-ventilated room with a window to the outside that you can open
  • if you have to go into the same room with other people at home you should try to keep at least 1 metre (3 ft) and where possible 2 metres away from them
  • you should clean your hands regularly and practice good respiratory etiquette
  • if you can, you should use a toilet and bathroom that no one else in the house uses
  • if you cannot have your own toilet and bathroom, the toilet and bathroom you use needs to be kept clean (see advice below). Another tip is to consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first
  • make sure you use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying themselves after bathing or showering and for hand-hygiene purposes
  • if you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it while they are present. If you can, you should take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing-up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly. Do not share cutlery and utensils. When using your own utensils, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these
  • clean all surfaces, such as counters, table-tops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets and toilet handles, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables, every day with a cleaning product
  • when cleaning you should use your usual household products, like detergents and bleach as these will be very effective at getting rid of the virus. Follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s label and check they can be used on the surface you are cleaning
  • we understand that it will be difficult for some people to separate themselves from others at home. You should do your very best to follow this guidance and everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces such as door handles and table tops

If the rest of your household stringently follow advice on physical distancing and minimise the risk of spreading the virus within the home by following the advice above, there is no need for them to also cocoon alongside you.

Handwashing and respiratory hygiene

There are general principles you should follow to help prevent the spread of airway and chest infections caused by respiratory viruses, including:

  • lean your hands regularly – This is one of the most important things you can do.Do this after you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, and after you eat or handle food
  • try not to touch your face or anyone else’s face
  • cover your mouth and nose with a paper tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • place used tissues into a plastic waste bag and immediately clean your hands with alcohol hand rub or wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms

What you should do if you develop symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:

  • fever (high temperature) and
  • cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

If you develop the symptoms of COVID-19, seek clinical advice by phoning your GP or using the HSE Live phoneline 1850 24 1850. In an emergency, call 112 or 999 if you are seriously ill. Do this as soon as you get symptoms. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital unless you are told to do so.

To help us provide you with the best care if you need to go to hospital as a result of catching coronavirus, we ask that you prepare a single hospital bag. This should include your next of kin or emergency contact, a list of the medications you take (including dose and frequency), any information on your planned care appointments and things you would need for an overnight stay (snacks, pyjamas, toothbrush, medication, and so on). If you have an advanced care plan, please include that.

How you can get assistance with foods and medicines if you are cocooning

In the first instance, family, friends and neighbours can support you once you adhere to cocooning guidelines and they adhere to physical distancing guidelines. Where possible use online services.

If these options are not available to you, the Government is putting in place assistance through the local authorities, working with the voluntary sector services, to ensure you can have access to food, essential household supplies and medicines. Each local authority will publish contact details.

ALONE is providing a telephone support line, seven days a week from 8am – 8pm, for all older people and their families to contact if they would like any advice, reassurance or additional support: 0818222024. This support line is also open to extremely medically vulnerable people.

The support line complements the clinical advice being provided by the HSE through its website and helpline.

If you receive support from health and social care organisations, for example, if you have care provided for you through the local authority or health care system, this will continue as normal. Your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you are protected. The advice for formal carers is included here.

What you should do if you have hospital and GP appointments during this period

We advise everyone to access medical assistance remotely, wherever possible. However, if you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or specialist to ensure you continue to receive the care you need and determine which of these are absolutely essential.

It is possible that your hospital may need to cancel or postpone some clinics and appointments. You should contact your hospital or clinic to confirm appointments.

Advice for visitors, including those who are providing care for you

Contact regular visitors to your home, such as friends and family to let them know that you are cocooning and that they should not visit you during this time unless they are providing essential care for you. Essential care includes things like help with washing, dressing, or feeding.

If you receive regular health or social care from an organisation, either through your local authority or paid for by yourself, inform your care providers that you are cocooning and agree a plan for continuing your care.

If you receive essential care from friends or family members, speak to your carers about extra precautions they can take to keep you safe. Speak to your carers about backup plans for your care in case your main carer is unwell and needs to self-isolate.

Advice for informal carers

If you are caring for someone who is over 70 or extremely medically vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk at the current time. Ensure you follow advice on good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

  • only care that is essential should be provided
  • wash your hands on arrival and often, especially before and after being in contact with the person you are caring for. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
  • avoid touching your face
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • do not visit or provide care if you are unwell and make alternative arrangements for their care
  • provide information on who they should call if they feel unwell, write out the phone number of their GP and GP out-of-hours service and the HSE website and HSELive phone number (1850 24 1850) and leave these prominently displayed
  • if it is an emergency, call the emergency services at 112 or 999 and remember to tell them that the person may have or has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • find out about different sources of support that are available
  • look after your own wellbeing and physical health during this time

How to look after your mental wellbeing

Social isolation, reduction in physical activity, unpredictability and changes in routine can all contribute to increasing stress. Many people including those without existing mental health needs may feel anxious about this impact, including support with daily living, ongoing care arrangements with health providers, support with medication and changes in their daily routines.

If you are receiving services for your mental health, learning disability or autism and are worried about the impact of isolation please contact your keyworker/care coordinator or provider to review your care plan. If you have additional needs please contact your key worker or care coordinator to develop a safety or contingency plan.

It is very easy to become anxious and lonely when you have to spend time on your own but remember, you can always pick up the phone and call a friend. For more information on minding your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak go to www.hse.ie. You can also call the Samaritans on Ph: 116 123.

At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse.

There are simple things you can do that may help to stay mentally and physically active during this time such as:

  • although you have been asked to stay at home it is important you keep yourself mobile by getting up and moving around as much as possible. If you have a garden or backyard, go out and get some fresh air but please keep away from other people including neighbours. Keeping a distance of at least 1 metre but where possible 2 metres (or 6.5 feet) from other people is recommended
  • ty spending time with the windows open to let in the fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight
  • spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to favourite radio programmes or watching TV
  • try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs

Steps you can take to stay connected with family and friends during this time

Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks during this time. Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone or online. Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is also important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling, if you want to.

Advice for people living in long-term care facilities, either for the elderly or persons with special needs

The advice also applies to those over 70 years of age or extremely medically vulnerable persons living in long-term care facilities. Care providers should carefully discuss this advice with the families, carers and specialist doctors caring for such persons to ensure this guidance is strictly adhered to.

Covid-19 Information Booklet (English)

Covid-19 Information Booklet (Irish)

CITY TRIBUNE

Spanish Arch project to highlight dangers of rising sea levels and flooding

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From the Galway City Tribune – The city will now receive twice-daily illuminated reminders of the potential dangers of sea surges in a joint science and art project which had its first showing this week at the Spanish Arch.

Each day, at the times of high tides in Galway Bay – morning and evening – the Spanish Arch will be it up by the Línnte na Farraige environmental group.

The Spanish Arch has been chosen as the city location for the ‘high tide illuminations’ – the Galway site is the first of a number of coastal locations selected for the light shows.

Two Finnish artists – Timo Aho and Pekka Nittyvirta – are responsible for the bars of light that will appear on the Spanish Arch, indicating the projected rise in sea levels from future storm surges.

According to the artists, the striking visual light installations are designed to ‘open eyes and minds to potential future storm surge levels around Ireland’s coastlines’.

One of the scientists involved in the project, Dr Zoe Roseby, of Trinity College, Dublin, said that the goal of the project was to ‘provoke a dialogue around rising sea levels to demonstrate that the future is still in our own hands’.

Dr Roseby said that the Spanish Arch had been picked because it was a location of local significance to highlight the link between greenhouse gas emissions and rising sea levels.

“Línnte na Farraige aims to encourage individuals to consider how collective societal action can mitigate climate change and sea level rise, to ultimately inspire a more sustainable and resilient future,” she said.

According to Línnte na Farraige – funded by the Dept of Environment’s Creative Climate Action initiative – since sea levels were first measured in Galway in 1842, they have risen by 25 to 30 centimetres.

“In recent years, Galway has become the go-to for reporting on coastal flooding associated with storms. Storm surges occur when strong winds drive water in the direction of the coast. The impacts of these events are then exacerbated by high Spring Tides,” Línnte na Farraige stated.

Galway’s most dramatic relatively recent sea surge event occurred on January 2, 2018, when Storm Eleanor caused sea waters to rise above the dock walls leading to severe flooding along Dock Road, Merchants Road, Flood Street, Quay Street, Spanish Parade and Claddagh areas.

According to Línnte na Farraige, on that occasion, the water levels had risen by 90cms above the base of the Spanish Arch, Now their line of light – first shown last Thursday – will appear 1.9 metres above that base line.

“This indicates the predicted rise in sea levels of a similar storm surge in 2150 when sea levels have risen by one metre — a moderate climate change scenario,” Línnte na Farraige point out.

The group also state that ‘solar panels and renewably powered batteries will be used as part of the installation to power the lights, which only turn on twice a day during rising tides.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Fears that interim Emergency Department at UHG will become long term

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From the Galway City Tribune – The new ‘temporary’ Emergency Department (ED) at University Hospital Galway  is due to open over the coming weeks, the HSE has confirmed.

The HSE – in a reply to a question from Cllr John Connolly (FF) – said that the ‘interim ED’, would have a capacity of 43 patient bays, as compared to 34 in the pre-Covid ED.

However, Cllr Connolly told the Galway City Tribune that while he welcomed the news on the interim ED, he feared ‘this new temporary facility could test the meaning of the word temporary’.

“I want to see a real commitment and urgency about the provision of the new permanent ED at the hospital which is to be done in tandem with the proposed maternity and paediatric units.

“As things stand, the whole process hasn’t even come near the planning stage and is currently being looked at under a public spending evaluation process. This needs to get moved on,”” said Cllr Connolly.

At this week’s Regional Health Forum, the HSE in a written reply, told Cllr Connolly that the new ‘interim, temporary ED’ – a project started in June, 2021 – would offer an improved service as compared to the previous facility.

The temporary ED will provide 43 single closed cubicles and extra resuscitation bays providing greater dignity and privacy for patients,” the HSE stated. The organisation also confirmed that the opening date for the new ED unit was the end of September or early October [2022].

In a letter last March to the Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath, Cllr Connolly recalled that in December, 2015, the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny had highlighted the problems in ED at UHG.

“On December 1, 2015, the Taoiseach told Dáil Éireann that the Emergency Department at UHG was one of the most inadequate facilities in the country and needed to be replaced and that the staff there worked under extraordinary conditions,” Cllr Connolly outlined in the letter.

He also said that while he acknowledged the need to ensure value for money in public expenditure, this shouldn’t be done at the expense of providing adequate and appropriate levels of emergency health care for people.

“Can I specifically and purposely ask, that as Minister for Public Expenditure, you would agree to tempering the demands of the Public Spending Code in a bid to hasten the progression of the project.

“I would also ask that in conjunction with the Minister for Health you would endorse this project [the permanent ED/Maternity units] progressing to planning, procurement and construction forthwith,” Cllr Connolly stated in his letter of March 29 last.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Stars for businesses who offer proper services to disabled people

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Maggie Woods is always ready for a challenge. The latest is serving as project director of the Galway Gold Star initiative, which is designed to improve accessibility and services for disabled people at businesses in Galway City.

It will be launched this Tuesday, October 4, in the Connacht Hotel from 11am-2pm and all are invited to attend

Based on the Gold Star Disability Project developed by the HSE, this scheme will allow restaurants, shops and other businesses to be rewarded with Bronze, Silver or Gold Star awards for the services they provide for people with disabilities.

Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte and Mayor Clodagh Higgins will lead the launch, which is being run through the Galway City Partnership (GCP), and will be headed up by Maggie, a long-time disability advocate.

She started in the new position this year.

“I am delighted to be part of the Galway City Partnership (GCP) team and get the opportunity to work on a project so close to my heart,” she said.

“Like a lot of people, I love Galway but know from first-hand experience that it’s difficult to navigate the city when you have a disability, whether you use a wheelchair or have a less-visible condition like chronic fatigue or an intellectual disability. This is a way to address the lack of services and accessibility – as well as educating people about disability issues.”

She said the goal of the Gold Star initiative was to make Galway a city that was accessible to everyone, doing that through positive reinforcement rather than focusing on the negatives.

Maggie will be working with Galway restaurants, shops and other businesses along with GCP and the Access for All Galway network, finding common ground on ways to improve access and services for disabled people.

Removing barriers for disabled people is a cause she is passionate about and has been advocating for all her life. As one of the youngest survivors in Ireland of the Thalidomide drug disaster, she has faced a lifetime of adversity and succeeded through hard work and a positive outlook. She worked most of her working life for The Irish Wheelchair Association in several capacities, in Tuam Resource Centre. She was also chairperson of the Irish Thalidomide Association and negotiated with government for people born with disabilities caused by the biggest drug catastrophe in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In addition, when she was in her 30s, she organised a fundraiser for the Galway Hospice Foundation, flying a small Cessna plane from Galway to Shannon and back, and raised €8,000.

The mother of two sons and two grandsons, she celebrated a big birthday this year with family and friends, but her fight for disabled services is not slowing down.

“I came to Galway about 38 years ago with a weekend bag and never left. I know the people of Galway will work with me in making the project a success,” she says.

The Galway Gold Star initiative, which is officially titled Access Together Galway, will be administered by GCP, using money provided by the Disability Participation and Awareness Fund approved in December 2021 by Minister Anne Rabbitte.

This initiative will follow the design of similar successful Gold Star programmes in Cashel and Tipperary towns. These support the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which was ratified by Ireland in 2018.

The guest speaker at Tuesday’s launch will be Anne Bradshaw of HSE Tipperary, where the original Gold Star initiative was rolled out. Declan Brassil, CEO of GCP, will speak on how the Gold Star will benefit the entire Galway community, not just people with disabilities. Access for All chairperson Marian Maloney will give the closing address. Members of the Chamber of Commerce will also attend. Entertainment will be provided, along with light refreshments.

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