Another shutdown of non-COVID healthcare services this year would be a "catastrophe", doctors have warned.
They are urging members of the public to fully comply with restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.
According to the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which represents over 5,000 doctors nationwide, Ireland has "an extremely short window to avoid our health system becoming overwhelmed".
"Departments of public health all around the country are under extreme pressure with the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases. The virus is no longer under control. If this continues, we will not be able to protect our most vulnerable in society, so we really need the support of the public to be the first line of defence and keep fighting this virus.
"If cases continue to rise it will be a catastrophe for our health system and will cause untold suffering for patients who require diagnostic and scheduled care," commented Dr Ina Kelly, chairperson of the IMO's Public Health Committee.
The IMO urged people who are waiting for COVID test results to self-isolate.
"In general practice, we are seeing increasing calls in relation to COVID-19, but the worrying part is that those people who know they are contacts or are awaiting tests are not self-isolating until they get their test results," noted Dr Denis McCauley, chairperson of the IMO's GP Committee.
He said that with so much attention focused on restrictions and lockdowns, people are in danger of forgetting the basic messages of reducing their social contacts to the absolute minimum, washing their hands regularly and wearing a mask.
Dr McCauley also pointed out that GPs are seeing a lot of close contacts of confirmed cases not restricting their movements for 14 days after receiving a negative test result. The virus can take 14 days to develop, so a person may produce a negative result initially, but test positive later.
"This is greatly contributing to the spread of the virus. Even if someone who is a close contact of a confirmed case tested negative every day for 14 days, they must still self-isolate for those 14 days," Dr McCauley added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.