Let it rip, says the herd-immunity brigade. Hive off those inconvenient old people and allow the rest of society to resume their rightful role at the economic coalface.
Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan calls the herd immunity crew "let-it-rip merchants who've been quoting a lot of pseudo-science" about "let it happen".
"Let it happen" is the theory that Covid-19 spreads through the community and the majority builds up resistance to it. Problem solved.
This herd immunity hypothesis keeps resurfacing. As a pandemic management strategy it is dangerous and flawed. Not just because the human cost is bound to be high, but because it distracts from our need to cooperate with public health measures known to be effective.
The theory raised its head again in a full-page advertisement in the Irish Times on Thursday, funded by an entrepreneur who sold his medical technology company for a whisker under €46m last year.
John Moore of Moorezey Holdings urges Ireland's leaders not to do "further damage to our country" and offers the reminder that old people or those with underlying medical conditions are most likely to die of Covid-19. Implying the rest of us are low-risk candidates. It smacks of "bring on the sacrificial goats".
He - and others who share his views, because he's not alone - have fixed on the notion that a low-risk element of the population would acquire immunity from infection. This, in turn, would protect the vulnerable by halting the spread.
But uncontrolled transmission in younger people risks illness and death across the community at large. Covid-19 cannot be corralled in that way.
Herd immunity is unworkable because epidemic outbreaks among younger people inevitably move into older populations. This puts pressure on medical resources: it leads to hospital overcrowding and impacts on the treatment of other diseases such as cancer.
It is an appalling idea because some people will die. Because it compromises the healthcare system's capacity to provide both acute and routine care. And because some of those who contract the virus may not return to full health for a long time, if ever.
Furthermore, there is no evidence for lasting immunity from Covid-19 after someone has been infected. Rather than end the pandemic, such a strategy would result in recurrent epidemics, as was the case with various infectious diseases before vaccination - an article in the latest issue of The Lancet points this out.
Instead of unblocking the economy, implementing the herd immunity theory would result in a heavier burden placed on it. Plus it sacrifices the elderly, the vulnerable and healthcare workers - the first in line to be infected.
Many of the young people contracting the infection under the let-it-rip model of virus management are likely to be healthcare employees. They would be off work, leading to staffing pressures - even as the health service itself is put under mounting stress.
It is impossible to segregate the elderly and keep them totally isolated from everyone else. How do older people in residential homes receive the care they need if locked away? Staff in those homes don't live in - they go back to their families after work.
Herd immunity is unworkable because the proportion of at-risk people is estimated at 30pc - that's some chunk of the population to put under house arrest. And defining who is vulnerable is complicated. By all means, let's protect this sector. But not by making prisoners of them.
We still don't know enough about this disease to take a gamble on letting it run riot in the community. Its long-term effects have not been identified.
Infection can lead to persistent illness, including in young, previously healthy people. One physically strong man I came across this week who contracted Covid-19 has discovered he has long-term scarring on his lungs and a shortened life expectancy.
While herd immunity has been tried in Sweden, many health experts believe it is a dangerous experiment, bearing in mind this is a new virus for which there is no vaccine. Already, it has infected more than 35 million people globally, with more than a million deaths recorded by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A sense of dismay is widespread, with a second wave of the coronavirus spreading across Europe and elsewhere. Some say it's not a second outbreak but a continuation of the first wave which never went away.
As Ireland enters stricter lockdown conditions, with new restrictions on household visits, there is a story we urgently need to believe in. It is the eventual defeat of this virus, followed by our economic recovery. Once we stop believing, we stop cooperating as a community.
Rapid testing, contact tracing and isolation of those with Covid-19 can hold off what's racing down the tracks, although we have been mystifyingly slow to deploy those tools. The WHO has pushed for these measures from the start. Even more baffling was leaving open the back door of ports and airports, allowing the virus to move through them unchecked.
Personal responsibility also matters if the virus is to be suppressed. Like it or not, we must accept limitations on our freedom of movement.
The pandemic has pointed up the need for altruism. Staying at home. Thinking about the welfare of others. Cancelling social events, both important and unimportant - but spirit-lifting. Now is no time for saying I've just sold my company so I'm OK, Jack.
Members of the gardaí have not been given extra powers to enforce restrictions but a steamroller approach would never work - we need to change our behaviour because we accept it is the right thing to do.
Some version of Level 5 restrictions seems to be likely in the very near future when Dr Holohan is saying "it is clear that the disease is not in control" and Professor Philip Nolan reports the reproduction rate at 1.4 nationally.
No wonder people are demoralised - we now know how difficult lockdown is. Rolling lockdowns throughout the winter are a distinct possibility.
Clearly, the persistence of this pandemic has led to a heightened sense of threat among the human species. But perhaps some of us also feel more connected to all life forms on the planet. It may be that we are forging forgotten links with the natural world during these abnormal times.
Remember, too, we're a community which recognises the value of working together for the common good. We may not be able to make sense of what we've lost but we can at least hope the majority of us survive intact - grateful still to be here.
Let it rip? Not when you think about the size of the tear.
Irish News Premium
It's been two years since I made the choice to return to Ireland and live by myself. After four years in London, I'd grown sick of the endless noise of the city, the uncaring crowds of people and the lack of any personal space on the tube. So when the opportunity arose to move back to Dublin and have a place to myself by the sea, it seemed like a perfect fit.
THE Cabinet will meet on Monday to consider new Covid-19 restrictions after the coalition leaders and senior ministers met for several hours on Saturday to consider public health advice to introduce Level 5 lockdown measures for six weeks.