If other parties had not excluded Sinn Féin from government following this year's general election, I would now be Taoiseach and I would have done things very differently in recent months.
The pandemic cannot be wished away, but how we respond to its consequences is a matter of choice: political, economic and social.
Dealing with the crisis has not been made easier by the presence of a chaotic Government, which seems at times to be more interested in in-fighting than working collaboratively across the political divide to take on the big challenges that face us. That is disappointing.
While we in Sinn Féin have been supportive of the public health response from the beginning, we have also insisted that restrictions must be accompanied by appropriate economic supports for workers, families and businesses.
That has been met by resistance from Government, but I am glad that we have forced them to row back on their cuts to the PUP and the Wage Subsidy Scheme and to reintroduce protections for renters. We welcome those changes, but would have gone further.
There is another issue which the Government has chosen to completely ignore - that is the need to reintroduce mortgage breaks for borrowers who have lost their jobs or have had their incomes reduced. That must be urgently addressed.
The first lockdown flattened virus transmission and opened up a window of opportunity to prepare our defences for a second wave. Unfortunately, that opportunity was squandered and the summer months were not used to recruit, resource, and to get testing and tracing right. That cannot be repeated.
The next six weeks need to be about bringing the transmission of Covid-19 under control, but they also need to be about setting in place plans so that 2021 can be the year in which we rebuild Ireland in a better, stronger, fairer way.
I have no doubt that people will play their part in the coming period and meet the challenge of Level 5 restrictions. That will be made more bearable by the balm of community, compassion and resilience we have seen across Ireland.
Personal actions and responsibility matter - keeping physical distance, hand washing, coughing etiquette, wearing a mask and observing the long list of necessary restrictions. But personal responsibility must be matched by the State and by government action. That is our only way of avoiding a devastating cycle of hard lockdowns.
We know that we must resort to lockdown when control of the virus is lost, and we lose control of the virus when testing and tracing doesn't work.
To fix this, we need to properly resource our health service to deal with the unique challenges Covid-19 presents. That requires a plan.
Firstly, that means the Government must heed the mantra of the World Health Organisation of 'test, test, test' and deliver the resources needed to carry out 150,000 tests a week, and we must meet the challenge of 24-hour turnaround times from swab to result, and from test result to contact tracing. That is crucial.
Secondly, contact tracing cannot be allowed to buckle under the strain - that means hiring 700 additional contract tracers over the next six weeks so that we have enough numbers ahead of Christmas. There is no shortage of competent, enthusiastic people to fill these roles. The Government can't keep dithering on this.
Thirdly, we need to ramp up capacity in our hospitals, especially when it comes to ICU beds and staffing. One of the major factors in Nphet recommending Level 5 restrictions is their fear that our alarmingly under-resourced hospitals will become overwhelmed.
Fourthly, we need to get serious about people coming on to the island. There is little point in putting our economy and society into hibernation in order to suppress infection rates if we are leaving windows open for the virus to creep in at our airports and ports. It is important to keep Ireland connected and accessible, so we need a much greater level of testing at all points of entry and far stricter and enforced quarantine rules.
Finally, the battle with Covid-19 must be fought on an all-Ireland basis. Common sense dictates that we must approach this challenge together as a single epidemiological unit.
Ultimately, we need to look towards Irish unity as a common-sense proposal that will put us in a stronger position to meet future health, social and economic challenges. For now, the North-South memorandum of understanding must mean tangible co-ordination island-wide. The Government and the Northern Executive can lose no more time in rising to this challenge.
An endless cycle of yo-yoing between lockdowns would cause untold hardship and we cannot sleepwalk into that nightmare.
The next six weeks will test us all. The biggest test is for Government, but getting the basics right can save us all a lot of future pain.
Mary Lou McDonald is the president of Sinn Féin