A GP in Lifford, Co Donegal has said up to 50 per cent of his patients who had coronavirus are suffering from long Covid, with symptoms varying from mild to very severe.
Dr Martin Coyne told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme that the Delta variant is “going through” entire households and that the virus does not recognise the Border with the North.
“East Donegal and Derry, we’re linked through work, we’re linked through families, through socialising, we’re linked commercially, so the Border doesn’t exist as I’ve said many times when it comes to the virus, so patients from Donegal do travel into the North, they go for an indoor dining experience.
“Personally I wouldn’t be into it, but I’m not sure that is the cause – I think it’s more that we’re inseparable from our colleagues in Northern Ireland.”
Dr Coyne said his practice had been “a little bit blindsided” by the cyberattack on the HSE, which meant that it is only now that they are getting reports on patients who contracted the virus.
“They’re starting to trickle in now, but what we are seeing is that where we get reports in a household, Delta is going through that whole household, where the Alpha variant might have done 50 per cent to 60 per cent of people, so some people were escaping it.
“Delta is utterly transmissible in any sort of close contact, we are seeing an increase in cases obviously in younger patients because they’re the unvaccinated.”
Dr Coyne said he was worried about young people as they did not seem to realise how dangerous the virus was.
“It’s not just about going into hospital, it’s not just about dying, it’s about all of the morbidity that you’re going to suffer if you get Covid," he said.
“We’re seeing it [long Covid] in 50 per cent of our patients that have had Covid, we’re seeing large amounts of morbidity from mild to quite severe – I encourage people to get out there, to get vaccinated, to keep their distance and wear masks, keep it simple.”
The symptoms of long Covid being suffered by his patients include fatigue, breathlessness on even mild exertion, chronic cough and brain fog, he said.
“Symptoms that you can’t quantify, symptoms that when a patient comes into me and tells me that they have them, I can’t measure them. I just have to go on how they subjectively feel. But it’s a pretty miserable experience.
“They do dissipate over time, but I’ve a sizeable cohort of patients who have not gone back to work six to eight months after Covid.”
Dr Coyne added that he could not understand the decision of British prime minister Boris Johnson to move the regulations on wearing face masks from mandatory to advisory. There will always be a cohort who only think of themselves, he warned.
“They do not realise there is a cohort of people out there who will always be vulnerable to the virus even if they get the vaccine, people with immune deficiencies.
“It’s not about you, it’s about everybody else. It’s your responsibility to everybody else. When I see somebody without a face mask in a shop, I just say to myself that person doesn’t care – about me, about the staff who are working in the shop.”
Dr Coyne said that the vaccine rollout has been going very well in his practice. “We had a fabulous take up with the older cohort, only a handful decided not to get it. We are registering online now for patients going down to the age of 20, we’ve got 320 coming in tomorrow morning for vaccines.
“We are limited by supply, we will keep doing it.”