IRISH doctors have warned that the country is "exactly 14 days behind Italy" in terms of a rise in coronavirus cases.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, due to a shortage of hospital space and services, doctors warn that Ireland's critical care capacity will be reached soon, and emergency services are to shortly be overwhelmed if cases of Covid-19 continue to rise as expected.
The only way to prevent it would be an "effective and aggressive" public health response, they say.
According to Clare-based Drs Liam Glynn and Mike O'Callaghan, this response needs to include quarantine, social distancing and isolation of infected people.
"The last 72 hours has seen significant escalation of coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, infection rates across Ireland with community transmission emerging across the country," they wrote.
The doctors add that China has demonstrated how an aggressive and effective response can contain the spread, or at least reduce the number requiring critical care at any one time.
"It is imperative we trigger a radical public health response, without delay. If we wish to avoid an epidemic peak that overwhelms the health service we must flatten the curve of transmission.
"We are exactly 14 days behind Italy in terms of positive cases rising above 5 patients per million and adjusting our trajectory now with serious and radical efforts is our best hope to save as many lives as possible."
The letter concludes by calling for a campaign to encourage social distancing, contact tracing and testing and high-volume quarantining of infected people.