On Friday we reached the grim milestone of 1,000 deaths due to Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland. Nearly 300 in Northern Ireland have also succumbed. Every one of those has a story to tell, but apart from those closest to them, we will probably never hear those stories. As the daily death toll rises, we are struggling to compute what has happened over these few short weeks.
But are we becoming inoculated to this suffering? Kantar has been tracking the sentiments of how people feel. Our latest study, conducted between April 9 and 15, shows some interesting shifting of the sands.
We are still hugely concerned with the situation. But if we look at the trends over the past month, we are becoming slightly more at ease. When we first asked this question, directly after Leo Varadkar's St Patrick's Day address to the nation, more than six in 10 (61pc) endorsed this statement to the highest level ("strongly agree"). As time has gone on, we have become slightly more nuanced. Now just over half (52pc) feel the same. This would suggest that after the initial shock to the system, we have become more sanguine about Covid-19, from a health point of view.
Of course, even though it is only just over a month ago, it seems like a different lifetime. At that stage we were, in some respects, terrified of what lay ahead. Now that we are into the battle, we are adapting to the new realities. In essence, we have settled into the new norms, whether we like it or not.
This is reflected in marginally less people stating that "the current situation is impacting on their day-to-day lives". Obviously, the vast majority of us still are impacted, but we have overcome that initial lightning bolt that was inflicted upon us in terms of work, socialising and basically every stratum of our "old lives". We have evolved somewhat. Perhaps there is a stoicism at play here.
For the Government and relevant authorities, this is a double-edged sword. The population cannot be in a perpetual state of fear, and for them to adapt accordingly to the new realities is a relief. However, with that comes the spectre of the dreaded C word. Complacency.
In terms of how we are reacting to the economy being put into an induced coma, the situation is quite sobering. At the outset of this crisis, there was a school of thought that there would be a V-shaped economic cycle; we would drop sharply but rebound quickly. As we have become relatively more comfortable in our views of the health implications, our focus has now turned to the ramifications of what we are experiencing.
While we are pragmatic in so far as we should be proactive in our financial planning, we are becoming increasingly pessimistic that the economy will recover quickly. The economic predictions announced last week reinforce what has been weighing heavily on our minds. Two in three of us (67pc) feel that we are in this dire fiscal predicament for the long haul. More than half of us (53pc) are very worried for the future.
In some ways it seems as if we have moved on to stage two of our Covid-19 journey - the immediacy of the problem is being diluted by the longer-term implications. Again, for policy-makers, this is worrying.
They need to reinforce the message that this is not the time to look at the horizon, but rather to focus on the ground below us, because that is where the health battle is still being fought.
But this shift in focus by the nation is clearly understandable. Individuals, households and businesses have been ravaged in an unprecedented manner. The here-and-now for many is fiscal adaptation at best, or survival at worst. This is reflected in terms of the proportion of households that have been financially affected by Covid-19. As of early April, four in 10 (41pc) had already been impacted, with a further one in three expecting to be hit in the future. Therefore, three-quarters of all households in the country are facing a new paradigm. The short and long-term implications are immense.
A third strand for policy-makers to consider is that we are becoming more fraught with the curtailment of our movements, regardless of the absolute necessity to do so.
When we asked in late March what people felt was the hardest thing to give up as a result of the crisis, social interaction came to the fore. Now, however, the most nominated response was simply "freedom". That is quite a visceral response. While these results are within the margin of error, it points to an undercurrent of people becoming restless. There are hints that the spirit of the lockdown may be fraying somewhat. Now is the time to hold the line.
This is not to say that we are in danger of "breaking out". The proportion of those agreeing that "we will make it if we stick together" has consistently increased, and we are still aware of the gravity of the situation (as evidenced by just 3pc believing that the situation will not get that serious).
Looking at the performance of the Government during this crisis, there is huge support for the actions they have taken (78pc approval), driven by those over the age of 55. As we move into the next stage of this battle to suppress Covid-19, the task for the Government will become more onerous.
If we suppress the initial outbreak, then the battle lines will be redrawn to fight complacency. The Government would do well to borrow from Churchill's musings in 1942 after the Battle of El Alamein, "this is not yet the beginning of the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning".
So, what does this all mean in terms of next steps? Our sister company, Kantar Futures, has developed four possible futures, based on two critical uncertainties - the frequency of Covid-19 occurring (one-time outbreak versus recurring outbreaks), and how populations react to it (controlled reaction versus panicked reaction). The findings are fascinating.
In essence, the four scenarios are as follows: 1) a close call, whereby we have a one-off outbreak but a managed response; 2) a panic attack, whereby we have a one-off outbreak but struggle/fail to absorb the impact; 3) a recurring nightmare, where we struggle/fail, but the outbreak continues to reoccur (this can lead to social unrest, as businesses and people oscillate between socialising and splurging, distancing and hibernation); or 4) a brave new reality, where we learn to adapt with recurring outbreaks, but develop new habits for travel, work and socialising, with those habits being increasingly embedded as the new norms.
One suspects that the most likely scenario in the medium term is that we are facing into a brave new reality.
Paul Moran is an Associate Director with Kantar