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Communications on Covid must now be crystal clear



Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Almost two years into the pandemic journey and, just like Voltaire, “We don’t know where we we’re going, but we are on our way.”

After a storm comes a calm. Except with Covid there doesn’t seem to be a calm.

Yesterday morning Health Minister Stephen Donnelly took to the airwaves to tell the nation the Government was not actively considering a return to working from home full-time.

Yesterday evening the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was strongly advising Government that people work from home, where possible.

We have had 25,000 new Covid cases identified in the past week. Last week, some 184,000 lab tests were done, one of the highest numbers since the virus first struck.

We are still clearly in the grip of a national emergency, so coherent, consistent messaging from health experts and ministers ought not be to much to hope for after 22 months.

While there was no mandatory directive from Nphet, they are making a pressing case that if people don’t need to be in work then they shouldn’t be.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan was also of the view employees should generally work from home. He noted advice from the UK’s Nphet equivalent that advising people to work from home is likely to have the most impact on the virus spreading this winter. And that’s what we have to focus on, no matter how fatigued or fed up we are.

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The HSE is warning of a relentless surge which has put our services under duress. Hospitalisations increased by one fifth in the last week.

Germany and Holland are considering severe new restrictions, while in the UK hospitals are also on the point of being overwhelmed.

So we are not the only country caught in the Covid quick-step – one step forward, two steps back. All the more reason why – in the interests of minimising confusion and maintaining our fraying social solidarity – communications need to be crystal clear.

Dr Mary Favier, speaking on RTÉ, said we need to look at how we manage social interactions and gatherings “and just try and do less in the next week or two”.

In the battle against the virus, every step counts, from face masks and hand hygiene to vaccines and ventilation. Let’s not be under any illusions, we are still very much on the defensive.

At least five million people around the world have died from Covid-19. There are still around 50,000 reported deaths a week.

The World Health Assembly is to meet in a rare session at the end of the month to discuss how we can co-ordinate the global response. If we are still struggling in the West, what chance have the poorer countries deemed to be running roughly a decade behind us in terms of vaccinations?

Questioning our responses is well and good, but constantly bemoaning limits on our lives is self-defeating. Even if we are not sure of the direction, a reawakening of collective strengths will serve us better in escaping the labyrinth.