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Mobile phones can spreads the COVID-19 virus, GPs are warned

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Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn

GPs have been warned to beware of the Covid-19 risk from using their mobile phone in the surgery.

Phones can lead to the infection being passed on, so when treating patients they need to ensure they clean their hands after taking a call or sending a text.

New guidance for family doctors on how to operate their surgeries in the Covid-19 era singles out their use of mobile phones as an area of concern and special attention.

Gloves

"Before using a mobile device remove your gloves and perform hand hygiene," guidelines from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre warn.

It cautioned against inappropriate use of a mobile device during a clinical procedure and said if a healthcare worker had to take a call or text, they should remove themselves from the activity, take off their gloves and clean their hands.

It said remote consultations with patients could be useful to minimise face-to-face visits.

However, attendance at the practice by patients need not be discouraged where that was preferred, it said.

The guidance comes as no new deaths from Covid-19 were announced yesterday. No deaths were also reported on Sunday and Monday, with one death on Tuesday.

There were 11 more people diagnosed with the virus yesterday, bringing the number of infections so far to 25,542.

"A key element of our response to Covid-19 is ensuring that any person experiencing symptoms - cough, shortness of breath, fever, loss of sense of smell or taste - comes forward for testing," said acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn.

"Please do not adopt a 'wait-and-see' approach. Instead isolate yourself and contact your GP without delay."

He said the National Public Health Emergency Team was meeting again and would discuss the next phase out of lockdown, including opening pubs that serve alcohol only.

It will also examine how it will proceed with the so-called "green list" of countries in Europe with low levels of Covid-19 that would form air bridges with Ireland and allow tourists to go on holiday without the need for quarantine on arriving home.

There remains strong concern that cases of the virus will be brought back here or imported by tourists visiting Ireland, leading to a further spread of the infection and the potential for clusters.

Public health authorities here will need to ensure they identify cases of the virus as soon as possible as the exit from lockdown continues and more people mix together.

The HSE said the Covid Tracker app - an important tool in alerting people they were in close contact with an infected person - had been downloaded by 960,000 people by 6pm yesterday.

Meanwhile, John Wender - professor of chemistry at UCC and one of 239 scientists from 32 countries who signed a letter to the World Health Organisation asking it to consider growing evidence that Covid-19 could be airborne - said it may mean additional measures to reduce the risks will need to be looked at.

"One area to avoid is high room occupancy," Prof Wender said.

"We should avoid spending a long time indoors, particularly in smaller rooms with other people, unless wearing masks."

He said loud singing or shouting should be avoided, particularly indoors.

There should also be increased ventilation. Opening doors or windows would reduce any virus in the air.

Screening

Separately, Labour leader Alan Kelly said there needed to be more clarity from BreastCheck about why it is intended to extend the gap between screenings from two years to three, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"The decision to decide to increase the waiting time for mammograms from two years to three will undoubtedly cause a lot of anxiety," he said.

"If there is no clinical need to have a mammogram every two years then why was the system set up in such a way that women receive these exams every two years?

"We have known about the plans to get screening services back up and running for a number of weeks now, so why did this decision to extend the time between exams fly under the radar like this?"