There were further calls in Donegal today for an all-island approach to tackling Covid-19 as the possibility of restrictions in the north being lifted draws nearer.

Donegal has the highest incidence of the virus in the south, and the eastern part of the county is bearing the brunt of that. The further west you go in the county, the fewer virus cases there are.

The latest figures show the incidence of Covid-19 in Donegal has fallen by just 6.3% since the Level 5 restrictions were introduced three weeks ago. 

The national average reduction has been eight times faster, with the five-day incidence of the disease falling by 70% over the past three weeks.

GPs say that the difference with other border counties like Monaghan is that east Donegal is right next door to a part of Northern Ireland where cases are not dropping at the same rate as other areas.

The case numbers in Donegal have put pressure on Letterkenny University Hospital, which is currently dealing with an outbreak.

Sean Murphy, General Manager at the hospital, said they are managing the outbreak by moving staff from other areas but this has meant that they have to cut back elective surgery by about 50%.

He stresses though that the hospital is open and safe to come to so that if someone has an appointment they should attend, unless they have symptoms of Covid-19.

Compromise deal reached over NI virus restrictions

There is constant movement across the border in east Donegal, between towns like Lifford and Strabane in Tyrone which are divided only by a river. 

There is two-way traffic all day for work, school and shopping and the concern is that if restrictions are lifted in Northern Ireland, then people will be tempted to make more journeys to visit retail and other premises that have reopened there.

Tom Murray runs two pharmacies in Ramelton and Castlefinn, and he is seeing first-hand the impact of coronavirus on the county and he said we need to have an all-island policy on Covid-19.

The Chief Medical Officers in both the Republic and the North believe that the island should work together as one, he said, and he said he "would implore the Assembly in the North and the Government in the south to make that happen".

His views were echoed by people out and about in Lifford today who highlighted the reality of cross-border movement for daily life, but who felt that authorities on both sides of the border should be singing from the same hymn sheet.

Dr Tony Holohan has said that there is still time for "significant improvement" to take place in Donegal before a decision will be made on the restrictions in that county or nationwide.

At today's HSE briefing, Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry appealed to the people of Donegal to double down on their efforts to beat the virus for the sake of themselves, their hospital, vulnerable groups and nursing homes.

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