WHOEVER it was that said we are currently fighting two pandemics – coronavirus and utter stupidity – was spot on.
And the really worrying thing is that while a vaccine is likely to address the former, there is no cure for the latter affliction.
A bizarre but entirely true story brought to my attention: In the past week a student travelled over 5,000km, on an seven-hour flight to Ireland, after spending time in her native place with her family. She arrived at the airport and made her way, by public transport, to the accommodation she shares with four others.
On her return she didn’t self-isolate, didn’t wear a mask and, apparently, got quite stroppy when asked to do so.
She returned to college the following morning, mingling freely with her fellow students, lecturers and others.
Three days later her housemates were informed that the student in question had tested positive for Covid-19. They were advised by the HSE to self-isolate and to attend for Covid testing which they did.
Thankfully, they have all tested negative – so far – but they are currently self-isolating and not able to attend work or college or return home to their families, pending the second test.
As the student involved in this dangerous farce also attended lectures and study facilities in college, her entire class was instructed to vacate the facility, told they would have to continue their studies online and advised to attend for Covid testing.
Such arrogance, ignorance and the blatant disregard for the health and safety of others might be difficult to comprehend but it is happening, probably more frequently that we’d like to think about, and as long as such utter selfishness continues, this country can never emerge safely from lockdown.
The only way recklessness of that nature can be adequately tackled is for the authorities to implement the necessary safeguards required at airports and other points of access to ensure the pre-conditions of admission to the country are being met.
Clearly, what is in place right now is wholly inadequate and downright dangerous. It’s one thing asking people to hold firm and stay at home but it’s a different story altogether when people travelling from overseas, many staying in Airbnb facilities, are allowed to wander the streets and shop in the supermarkets without having self-isolated.
If the airport security personnel, customs officials or the garda authorities are struggling to cope with the demand, then call in the army and train the soldiers to conduct the follow-up checks.
It is oh so simple to insist that all passengers are required by law to present a completed passenger locator form, a negative pre-departure Covid-19 RT-PCR test result and quarantine for 14 days on arrival. But some people just won’t go to the bother and they are not being checked.
In the complete absence of any follow-up by the authorities, they might as well ask arrivals into the country to promise to wear polka dot pyjamas and drink flat 7-Up for the next fortnight.
The onus is on the politicians to protect the people and they need to do it now. The time for a total and absolute crackdown on those flouting the lockdown restrictions has long since passed. If the deaths of over 4,500 people and the infection of more than 225,000 others isn’t sufficient to get the message across to them, then they obviously have some serious issues to contend with.
The problem for the authorities is that there is far too much of a racket being made by the seriously misguided anti-lockdown brigade and that relentless noise is drowning out the important messages and preventing them from being heard.
In recent days, a social media site set up to support nurses, midwives and frontline staff in Ireland shared a shocking montage of photographs of health care workers whose faces were severely cut or bruised and whose skin was battered from the essential personal protective equipment they require to save their own lives and the lives of others.
We share the image here – with permission – for the benefit of the self-centered noise-makers who are constantly moaning about the denial of their perceived right to travel outside a 5km limit or the refusal to allow pubs or restaurants or hairdressers or beauty salons or gyms to reopen and to hell with public health advice.
You know the type – shaking the clenched fist of their right hand when whining about the public health authorities and the government while extending their left hand, palm side up, to grab whatever State handouts they can get.
Pity about the poor nurses, isn’t it, Sir? Ah well, at least our tills are ringing merrily. Now, would you like to see a dessert menu? A packet of peanuts with your pint, perhaps?
We share this image of battered health care staff, more particularly, for those who see no harm at all in taking to the packed streets to protest, without social distancing or mask wearing, to hurl missiles and abuse at gardaí and to chant obscenities at those who have been elected – democratically, remember – to run the country to the best of their ability.
Cllr Michael Gleeson, at a recent meeting of Killarney Municipal District Council, provided the perfect word to describe the non-mask wearing street protesters – amadáns. I could suggest other labels but I’ll bite my lip.
Everybody has their their own opinion, of course, and they are perfectly entitled to express whatever it is that is on their mind but there is just no defending those clowning around and putting the health and lives of others at risk in the process.
The simple fact of the matter is that the coronavirus still poses a massive risk every minute of every day and as long as we have irresponsible idiots like the returning student who refused to self-isolate and those who insist on putting profit before people, whatever the cost, it’s a problem that cannot be adequately tackled, irrespective of what the government or the public health officials try to do.
Covid-19 is a brutal virus that is adapting and mutating the whole time and, in the absence of precedent and without the benefit of a crystal ball, the medical experts can only do their level best as they struggle to cope with new challenges thrown at them every day.
They are, essentially, dealing with a completely different strain of the virus since the turn of the year than in 2020, much more transmittable, much more lethal, much more threatening. They are trying to come to terms with the fact that a vaccine deemed perfectly safe yesterday was withdrawn today as a precaution for safety reasons.
This is their first time fighting a pandemic of such sheer force and, in many ways, it is a steep learning curve but, still, we have to listen to what they are telling us.
What the public health officials can confirm, given that any progress made in controlling the virus has stalled in recent days, is that we are now at a very delicate tipping point and the decisions and choices we make in the coming weeks will determine how soon we can slowly and safely return to what we need to return to.
We remain in an incredibly precarious situation. We must continue to exercise common sense and we must all learn from the absolutely dreadful mistakes made when the last lockdown was lifted. We have a choice: listen to the experts, do the right thing and try to survive this blasted disease or ignore what they are telling us, do what we choose and let’s wait and see where that will lead us.
The most reassuring thing is that our future will come just one day at a time so there is plenty of time to do what is right.