OPINION: While Kerry is currently setting an example for the rest of the country to follow, having the lowest 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population, leading to calls for businesses to be allowed to reopen, case numbers nationally are still far too high and we must continue to do all we can to suppress this disease over the coming weeks, says Dr Ronan Glynn (pictured), Deputy Chief Medical Officer with the Department of Health
SINCE the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Ireland last February, our lives have changed in ways we never thought possible.
More than 6,300 people on our island have lost their lives with Covid-19. We remember them and their families and friends, as well as the many people who remain seriously ill or who are dealing with long-term health issues because of this disease.
The response of colleagues across all parts of our health system has been remarkable. We should be extraordinarily proud and take great heart from the dedication and resilience which has been – and continues to be – shown by everyone involved in this response.
Almost all sectors and communities have experienced loss and have been tested in ways unimaginable to us this time last year.
This pandemic and the public health response to it has had a profound impact on lives and livelihoods. But it has also demonstrated the best of us as a people, working together and buying in as a collective to what has been necessary to protect one another.
Last spring, we met the challenge presented to us with collective enthusiasm. Ironically, while that enthusiasm has understandably waned and gone, there are more concrete reasons for hope and optimism now than at any time over the last 12 months:
- We have seen week-on-week reductions in case numbers over the past six weeks and we are on track to have an incidence which is amongst the lowest in Europe
- The number of people in hospital has fallen by 38 per cent over the past fortnight
- We have an educated and informed public and most people continue to do most of the right things most of the time – overcoming disinformation and playing their part in solidarity with one another
- We have a dedicated and committed health workforce who have consistently stepped up to challenges as they have presented
- We have three highly effective vaccines with more on the way, supply is ramping up and we are on course to have given about 80 per cent of adults at least one dose by the end of June
- Vaccines are already having a very positive impact here with cases falling dramatically among healthcare workers and in our nursing homes
- Evidence is mounting quickly that these vaccines, as well as stopping people getting sick, also help to stop people passing the virus onto others
- While new variants have brought uncertainty, the existing vaccines perform well against them and work is already underway to develop booster versions should they be required
We still have a way to go. Our case numbers are still far too high and we must continue to do all we can to suppress this disease over the coming weeks.
But if we can do this successfully through March, our focus will begin to turn to what we can do, rather than what we cannot.
“Yes, we need to be cautious and yes, there will be challenges over the coming months. But together, through science and solidarity, we will get through this and this pandemic will end.