‘You may recover quickly if you get Covid-19. Many of us won’t. Some of us will die’

OPINION: Reports of crowds of people gathering at the beach or out hiking shows that there is still work to do when it comes to getting people to understand the importance of social distancing, writes Paula Dennan, (pictured), a feminist activist who swapped life in Dublin for rural Kerry and is in an at-risk group during the Covid-19 pandemic

GARDAI removed people from Banna Beach last weekend due to concerns about the lack of social distancing. There were similar crowds in public places across the country, resulting in some county councils renewing their calls for people to stay away from public parks and other spaces in large groups.

We are all adjusting to the restrictions needed in order to stop the spread of Covid-19. While it is important and recommended by the HSE that we continue to exercise regularly, including going for walks with family or friends, keeping a space of two meters between you and other people is vital.

We know that certain groups of people are more at risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they get Covid-19. These include people over 60, people who have a pre-existing condition – such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure – and people who are immunocompromised, meaning their immune systems are weaker than normal.

Beaches and parks have been busy and many people are not observing social distancing requests

I am one of those immunocompromised people. The medication I take to treat my inflammatory arthritis makes me more susceptible to catching viruses and infections.

It also makes it likely that I will experience severe symptoms when I do get sick.

Like many people with compromised immune systems, I am in self-quarantine. This is different from self-isolation because, while I am staying at home and avoiding contact with people, there are times when leaving the house is still necessary.

When I am around people I do not know, I need to be confident that social distancing will happen in every case. I need to be sure that everyone is putting the latest advice from the HSE into practice.

I do not have this confidence when I see stories about crowds of people at the beach or out hiking in the news, which is a scary thing to admit.

You know more immunocompromised people than you think. You may have friends, colleagues or family members that you know live with an autoimmune condition, but what you may not know is that the medication they take probably suppresses their immune system.

This puts them in the at-risk category and among the vulnerable population we’ve heard politicians and health care professionals talk about in recent weeks.

We don’t always look like we are sick, yet we now find ourselves relying on people to take extra care around us.

Here’s the thing about social distancing: when it works and we do lessen the number of cases of Covid-19, it will seem like an overreaction because the situation doesn’t get as bad as expected. But the actions we take now are for the benefit of everyone, not simply ourselves.

You may recover quickly and without complications if you get Covid-19. Many of us won’t. Some of us will die. Please think of us when you are out in public. You practicing social distancing could save our lives.

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