The coming week will see global deaths from Covid-19 reach one million. This is a tragedy. Along with death, the pandemic has brought illness, fear and uncertainty. It has also caused the misery of mass unemployment and the loss of businesses in which people have invested their lives.
Many reasonable people, including some economists, argue that there is no trade- off between eliminating the virus and saving livelihoods. They may be proved right. The evidence remains mixed.
But news from the other side of the world last week did not bolster the case of those who call for an elimination strategy. On Thursday, it emerged that the economy of almost Covid-free New Zealand shrank by as much as those of disease-ravaged Italy and Belgium in the second quarter of the year.
We need to de-dramatise Covid, even if it is extremely serious. That is true in Ireland more than in other countries. Irish friends abroad all observe that Covid is discussed more here, and discussed in a more dramatic way. Foreigners who live here and remain familiar with their home countries say the same thing. Breathless broadcasters talking as if bubonic plague were descending on the country do nothing to bring proportionality to the discussion.
For that we need facts to be at the forefront. That includes facts about death.
Just over 30,000 lives in the Republic came to an end last year. On the basis of what has happened this year, with 1,500 confirmed deaths from Covid and another 300 described as probable or possible, there will almost certainly be more deaths recorded this year.
It is worth emphasising that there is uncertainty even on the number of fatalities Covid has caused. Because of Ireland's unusually long period in which deaths can be registered, official statistics come out with a very long lag.
The best real-time indicator of more deaths than usual, or "excess deaths" in the jargon of demographers, is compiled by UCC academic Seamus Coffey. He assembles daily data from the death notification website RIP.ie. There have been 1,400 additional deaths this year relative to the average at this point in the four previous years, according to his analysis.
What happens over the remainder of the year will determine how much more prevalent death has been in 2020 compared with 2019. There is little doubt that some increase in fatalities will occur in the weeks and months ahead as we continue to live with the virus. Given experiences around the world, particularly in pockets such as northern Italy, the Madrid region and New York city during the first wave, when fatalities relative to population were multiples of what has been recorded in Ireland, we need to be alive to the risk of the worst-case scenario. But worst-case scenarios have been the exception, not the rule globally. Moreover, during second ripples and waves which have taken place since the summer, nowhere in the world that I can find - despite many hours spent trawling through the data -has had a worst-case scenario situation.
In Europe, countries that have had the biggest second waves are seeing nothing like the nightmare they experienced last spring. Spain has had the biggest upsurge in Europe. Deaths have been rising. But they were 10 times higher in the spring. Nobody is sure why there has been such a difference in outcomes, but the pattern seems to be universal, for now at least.
The most important question going into the winter is how well prepared our hospitals are to deal with more cases. Last week's government road map on living with the virus had surprisingly little to say about this matter and a lot to say on restrictive measures that might be imposed, as happened in Dublin within three days of the report's publication.
The constant focus in government communication on what people and businesses will or might be prevented from doing increasingly looks misplaced. The Government needs to focus a lot more on what it can do to be ready for the inevitable increase in hospital cases that will come as we co-exist with the virus.
Last week's government roadmap for the next six months or so stated "across all services, there is a need to develop plans for surge capacity through service review, enhancement of capacity where possible and development of contingency plans".
It is more than a little surprising that comprehensive plans for surge capacity were not drawn up during the lull in the summer. There will be recriminations aplenty if additional capacity cannot be quickly added if it is needed.
Those involved in making decisions point out that the hospital system in Ireland did not come close to being overrun in the spring even when cases were rising exponentially - a term that is as overused as it is misused (hospital admissions have been rising at a concerning rate recently, but it has been nowhere near the runaway rate of March and April).
Those making decisions also argue that, in extremis, cancelling elective procedures could free up capacity, as it did during the first wave, even if that will come at a cost in health terms down the line.
The takeover of the private hospital system also came with health costs, and financial cost to the taxpayer. But it added capacity for Covid patients, which, in the event, was never used. Purchasing private capacity remains a fall-back position the Government hopes it won't have to resort to.
A position it should have resorted to some time ago is the need to be plainer in highlighting one of the few things we do have certainty about: the risk profile of those who are most vulnerable. Covid-19 is a highly discriminatory disease. It discriminates against those who are older and who have underlying health conditions. For those not on these two groupings - a large majority of the population - Covid-19 is no more a risk than many other diseases and activities we face on a daily basis (as of the latest figures, nine people under 65 with no underlying conditions have died in the Republic of the disease).
Those who are vulnerable have rights and responsibilities, just like everyone else. Those at higher risk of getting seriously ill are more likely to need hospital treatment. It may not be popular to say it, but because they are more likely to exercise their right to medical care, they have a greater responsibility, and not just to themselves but to everyone else.