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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

Escape From Plague Island...

Unsurprisingly, once the clock chimed midnight, Covid didn’t suddenly vanish. 2021 is the second ugly stepsister and we are still living on a plague-riddled planet. Series two of Covid sees countries scrambling for the vaccine, the panacea upon which we pin our dreams of a covid-free normality. Our neighbours have also just sent us a mutant strain to contend with, which is exciting. So, stay tuned because this year’s series promises just as many plot twists as the last. Months of indoor entertainment for the whole family.

As New Zealand declared their nation virus-free, our cases reached a staggering 8,000 a day for the third time. Either the entire island of Ireland was engaged in orgies last month or people here and abroad chose to ignore the virus in favour of a very Covid Christmas. Hindsight is 2020. Escaping plague island isn’t really an option for me as avoiding other humans means swimming is the only rational solution. Unless I drink enough red bull. I realised I would likely have to navigate the post-Brexit war over who can cast their nets where and getting mistakenly harpooned for being an Irish fish out of water wouldn’t be ideal either. So, as we enter lockdown 3.0, cocooning and rubbish baking attempts are on the cards again. My time machine works! It’s March 2020!

The exponential rise in cases means it's all too easy for people to place the blame solely on the government’s decision to open up the hospitality industry. It definitely contributed, especially as many gastropubs are fudging receipts and operating like wet pubs. The gastropubs should not have been opened but had they kept them closed, we would have had our own insurrection; “Unite the right to drink a pint” storming the Oireachtas. In opening the gastro pubs and restaurants in December, the government likely indicated that they were reasonably safe (but only if you eat, because Covid doesn’t like food). It gave people the excuse they wanted after an incredibly hard year. Afterall, if pubs and restaurants are safe then it must be OK to meet people indoors. Even though the message from the health experts has never changed: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

The craic sector, which includes bars, restaurants, theatres, and cinemas, has been largely affected because indoor settings pose the greatest risk. Regardless of social distance, if six people spend four hours together without a face covering in a poorly ventilated room, five will become infected. This risk can of course be vastly reduced by applying measures to stop the spread of aerosols with open windows and spaced-out seating. As most of us don’t wear a mask when we eat or drink, it is the length of time spent in any one space that remains the issue. Unfortunately, not every bar or restaurant is adhering to the regulations, not least by extending time slots.

Regardless of social distance, if six people spend four hours together without a face covering in a poorly ventilated room, five will become infected.

The hospitality industry decries the closures as scapegoating, yet the data indicates that Covid thrives in these settings. Just because you don’t like the science doesn’t make it any less true. The same applies to gyms. The sweaty, often maskless environment can be incredibly risky, even if safety measures are implemented. No matter the precautions taken, air circulation in enclosed spaces leads to a rise in Covid because contagious particles exhaled by an infected person remain suspended in the air. Herein lies the problem. People flouting the rules will inevitably pass it to others, simply by breathing the same air.

Industry representatives argue that bar closures only encourage covert socialising, driving people into each other’s homes. And they’re probably not wrong. Both pose an issue, and if common sense prevailed, everyone else would realise that too. Whichever route you take, someone loses. It’s about weighing up the least bad options, mitigating transmission and saving lives.

“People can’t be trusted” is an argument I see a lot and sadly it seems many are incapable of taking responsibility for the safety of themselves and others. Although most of us have opposable thumbs, I do wonder how some adults in this country have moved beyond fist-drawing circles with a crayon. Yet, they walk among us, these unmasked heroes. Valiantly licking people in shebeens as if we were in the midst of prohibition and the island had been drained dry of every tap. Everyone took little risks over the holiday. People’s bubbles merged into other bubbles, yet many were also extra vigilant in the build up to Christmas by limiting contacts, receiving two tests and isolating before spending time with family or friends. So, it can be done. We can’t blame Jim Corr and his merry band of anti-maskers. This time, we can only blame ourselves.

Are we looking to the government to control us as parents would unruly children? There’s a fine balance between issuing government regulations to becoming a nanny state. Everyone has a different view of what being careful is so the government issues guidelines and regulations to protect us from covidiots. Ultimately though, we are the sum of our own actions. Blaming the government for opening gastro pubs, especially if you happened to be one of those frequenting them, simply negates personal responsibility. Undoubtedly, the government has made mistakes. There has been capitulation to industry lobbyists as scientific advice was side-lined in favour of economic interests. There have been mixed messaging and policy U-turns. Simply “advising” people to isolate hasn’t worked. There needs to be mandatory testing on arrival and quarantine facilities. Plus, the flouting of regulations by entitled senior ministers did little to buoy public sentiment. Despite the errors that have been made along the way, I do think they are doing their best to save lives, navigating us through very unpredictable and perilous waters. Condemning the government for a nationwide inability to affect good judgement is definitely easier than holding a mirror to their own idiocy.

1 comentário

Rian McGrath
Rian McGrath
10 de jan. de 2021

Nice post, Derv. Look forward to reading more 🙂

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