Covid-19 is now out of control in Ireland.
his weekend the leaders of the three coalition parties have been in lockdown with Tony Holohan and Ronan Glynn. Once they have deliberated, the Cabinet will join them, and a decision will be forthcoming from the Taoiseach on what the country should do next when it comes to Covid-19. This will be the most important decision the Taoiseach has had to make during his tenure, and possibly one of the most important decisions that any government has had to make in recent times.
The stakes couldn’t be higher at this stage of the pandemic. Get it wrong in one direction – meaning going to Level 5- and people might suffer and die because of economic and mental health consequences. Get it wrong in another direction – meaning not going far enough with restrictions- and people might suffer and die for other reasons – Covid-19, leading to more deaths or more long haulers with debilitating symptoms.
But also, the risk of the hospitals being overwhelmed leading to delays or neglect in the treatment of other diseases. The government guidelines on Level 4 state that its priority is to keep schools open. Key features include only allowing essential businesses and retail outlets to remain open, four guests other than the bride and groom at weddings, no sporting events, all museums closed and 25pc capacity on public transport. This ramps up further if the government decides to go to Level 5. People will then have to stay home and not go beyond 5km from their houses.
Most of the public want more restrictions, and the government has ignored the advice from NPHET once already. The Taoiseach will have to move, the only question being how far. He will also have to lay out what might happen next. He has to give the country hope that these measures will bring us to a better place once the likely six weeks expires.
Crucially, he will have to bring the country with him. Social cohesion remains the only weapon we have against this virus, and the unacceptable growth in numbers of cases and hospital admissions have happened because of lack of compliance with the guidelines. One thing for sure. This virus isn’t going away anytime soon and will spread for as long as we let it. Now is the time for the Taoiseach to tell us all what to do and bring us together again, like we were in the first lockdown. The message has to be clear: together we can get this virus under control again as we did in June, while we wait for the science to save us.