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Coercion won't stop Covid but firm action will be key

Editorial


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'Self-isolation and quarantine protocols should have been strictly supervised and applied - they clearly weren't.' (stock photo)

'Self-isolation and quarantine protocols should have been strictly supervised and applied - they clearly weren't.' (stock photo)

'Self-isolation and quarantine protocols should have been strictly supervised and applied - they clearly weren't.' (stock photo)

Containing the explosive growth in Covid-19 will be a national priority indefinitely. This necessitates a new way of life for all of us. Not because we desire it but because we have no choice.

From today we must wear masks in shops and face coverings when we use public transport.

As of now who is responsible for enforcing the rule or for sanctioning those who break it remains to be seen. Prosecutions or fines are not really the answer.

Consent, not coercion, has until now guided policy. Nonetheless there must be clarity about the consequences for putting others at risk. We have to foster a DIY approach to keeping each other safe; it may be individually tailored but oriented toward our communities.

Internationally, countries which have been most effective in handling the pandemic are those where a culture of cooperation and compliance is dominant. This is based not on fear of punishment but on an understanding of the risk. A general recognition of the trade-off between protecting lives and livelihoods and the sacrificing of some freedoms has to be established.

Aristotle said: "I have gained this by philosophy… I do without being ordered what some are ­constrained to do by their fear of the law."

But this in no way lets the Government off the hook. While initial responses were hugely impressive, our new Government is rightly under fire for not recognising how direct provision and meat plants were unique risks.

Lessons from other countries, where lower-paid workers were less likely to be able to declare their symptoms for fear of loss of income should have been learnt. Instead of stepping in with safety nets there appears to have been a stepping back.

Self-isolation and quarantine protocols should have been strictly supervised and applied - they clearly weren't. This is completely unacceptable and flies in the face of the enormous sacrifices made across the country to date. Only now is repeat blanket testing to be provided for the 15,000 workers in the industry, according to Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary.

The State needs to be there to guarantee compliance and police standards.

In the first outbreak, it was recognised we were too late to recognise the dangers in nursing homes. Now the Government has failed to respond in time to another major threat which also had been identified as a hotbed for the spreading of the deadly virus.

This is unpardonable given all we have been through.

The inevitability of extending stages or introducing new ones must be prepared for.

A "red zone" will also finally be considered to introduce travel bans to countries where the virus is spiralling.

Recognisable, clear controls are vital for the maintenance of social and economic activities.

Yet there is little point in making lofty declarations of intent unless the measures are there to make them meaningful.

Irish Independent