To the Point: It begins and ends with respect

THERE is an extremely thin line between common sense and bottom of the barrel stupidity and although we’ve witnessed considerable evidence of the latter going right back to last March, the latest indications would seem to suggest that it’s worse it’s getting.

If it came as a shock to anyone when it emerged yesterday that well over 6,000 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified, including 129 in Kerry, then it shouldn’t have. Neither should the fact that another 5,325 infections nationwide, including 122 in this county, were reported this evening.

That the virus has now spread to far in excess of 110,000 people is no surprise either given what we have either witnessed or heard about when restrictions were lifted in the name of Christmas commerce after politicians buckled at the knees under the pressure of noisy demands.

It is now known that contact tracers employed in HSE call centres have been particularly busy jabbing the 064 and 066 prefix since Christmas with a significant surge of positive Covid-19 tests throughout the county.

Those that are claiming Covid-19 is no worse than ‘flu are the very ones that were stocking up on toilet rolls and self-raising flour

Yet despite the frightening facts and figures, the undisputed medical expertise, the mounting death toll and the huge pressure being placed on hospitals, so many people are still behaving recklessly and appear to remain in denial – either for selfish reasons or out of pure and utter ignorance – as the country is being enveloped by a lethal disease.

Essential services must remain open, of course, and there is absolutely no reason why it can’t be done in a safe and sensible manner but that is not what we are seeing on the ground.

Despite the alarming rise in infections, we have watched as stores deemed necessary have abandoned, orderly safe distance queuing systems and dispensed of the practical one-way aisles first introduced last March.

Instead they have created a dangerous free-for-all scenario with shoppers crossing each other’s paths at will, nudging their way past and standing at other people’s shoulders as they queue to pay with the two metre rule a distant memory for far too many.

We have seen people entering places of business without face coverings and not being prevented from doing so or even questioned by management or staff who, by their inaction, are putting their own safety and that of their customers at real risk. And those that claim they are deemed medically exempt from wearing a mask should stay at home and get others to run their errands – there are agencies and community organisations there to help.

Hospitals are coming under enormous strain due to the rise in coronavirus cases

Before today’s apparent U-turn, we listened as the government defended its stubborn stance on the reopening of schools by pointing out that three quarters of all places of education in the country have had no engagement with public health authorities during the pandemic.

Turn that sentence on its head, however, and it reveals that a quarter of all schools actually have had reason to contact public health authorities due to Covid-19 issues and that does not present a picture of safety in any man, woman or child’s language.

In keeping with the spirit – or spirits – of bravehearts dancing on a defibrillator kiosk on a packed street last summer, we have all heard horror stories about packed house parties, extended family gatherings and raucous staff parties in the lead up to and during Christmas and in the early days of 2021.

Ask any taxi driver you encounter – house parties are in full swing almost every night of the week.

We have despairingly listened to hilarious excuses from people in business who had opted, in their wisdom, not to wear face masks because, they told those who raised the matter, it is not written in law that they have to do so or that the face coverings were making them a little uncomfortable.

It was only when customers stopped putting their sanitised hands in their pockets or handbags to pull out their wallets or purses that a supply of face masks was ordered in double quick time and worn with a pride and enthusiasm they would almost expect you to salute.

The pandemic has caused well over two thousand hearts to stop and several thousand more to break

We watched on in absolute despair when it took several weeks, if not months, for some businesses to heed advice from the public health authorities that plastic visors offered no protection to staff or customers and that masks were essential.

Clearly, no one likes wearing face masks but they are absolutely crucial in offering that layer of protection from Covid-19. That’s what the public health experts inform us and it is they we must listen to rather than totally daft individuals who really need to start exhibiting some maturity and common sense.

We have wearily observed grossly ill-informed social media posts claiming Covid-19 is no more dangerous that an annual dose of influenza yet these are the same people who stocked up with small mountains of toilet rolls and self-raising flour in the early days of the pandemic.

Now they are almost falling over themselves to rush in and lash out at the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, NPHET, GPs and anybody else in their narrow little sightline and they try to appear clever by recycling a quote, a figure or a quip they have read somewhere else and pass it off as their own.

Face coverings, the use of hand sanisitser and adhering to orderly queuing systems are essential

It goes without saying that it has to be acknowledged that some people face crippling financial losses, businesses are staring at possible closure, jobs are being shed and the economy is being devastated. We can’t begin to understand what commercial and financial horror stories are out there but we can fully comprehend the torment endured by those who have buried loved ones because of Covid-19 and we know what we have to do to try to halt the out of control crisis that is putting everybody’s life at risk. We’re in this together and the only way we’re going to get out of it is if we do it together without dangerous and ill-advised solo runs.

My two-part new year’s resolution is very simple: If I encounter a business premises flouting Covid-19 public health guidelines, in terms of staff not wearing masks, sanisitser not being on offer, not adhering to orderly queuing systems or conditions not being safe, I will not frequent the premises again.

And if I encounter someone whose stupidity, arrogance, stubbornness or selfishness is putting the health and wellbeing of others at risk, such as those not wearing masks when they should be or standing far too close in a queue, I will challenge them.

If I see something, I will say something and I would appeal to others to do likewise, for their own sake and on behalf of those they love. That is the very least we owe to those whose lives have been lost by Covid-19 and their families who have had to mourn their loved ones in near empty churches.

The pandemic that has caused well over two thousand hearts to stop and several thousand more to break is much too dangerous to treat in a flippant manner.

It’s all about personal responsibility and people must decide whether they want to be the cause of the virus spreading or part of the solution to prevent it from doing so.

We simply have to heed the advice from the public health experts if we’re going to get out of this. As it stands, too many people are literally dicing with death.

A very poignant post on Twitter last night summed up the situation perfectly: Accompanying a picture of an elderly couple, probably his parents, the writer said: “Since March I’ve minded these two. I’ve kept them fed, warm, alive. I’ve had cancer surgery and come through the far side. Since March I’ve socialised with five people. What we are being asked to do is remarkably simple. It begins and ends with respect”.

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