It is a sad fact that events are generally only classified as inevitable after they have happened. Sometimes you can get a jump on history by causing what is thrown at you to ricochet. Sometimes it just comes back and hits you between the eyes. Deputy chief medical officer Ronan Glynn, like others at the top of the HSE, has reminded us we do have a say in what happens next.
Our behaviour can divert the fourth wave. Let us be honest – we are fed up with living by edict and instruction. For 18 months we have shielded ourselves in the authority of others, and it is beginning to grate.
But let us also be realistic: if we want to get our lives back, something has to change, and Covid-19 does not do compromise.
Gruelling and dispiriting as the cycle of ceaseless suppression has been, experience is there to remind us the human spirit is never finished when it is defeated. We are only truly vanquished when we surrender.
There is something to be said about resigning oneself to what cannot be avoided. But giving in to unreasonable demands or abjectly refusing to challenge questionable decisions is not part of the contract.
Dr Glynn has warned us to expect a difficult few weeks ahead. Many are now asking if they really had to be this difficult.
Our bigger hospitals are looking at cancelling elective surgery. All the focus is on Covid and the 300 beds we have in our intensive care units. Given the billions pumped into the health service, were we naive to hope a better bulwark against the waves might have been put in place?
Is it not also time we gave due consideration to those we still expect to care the most? Speaking on RTÉ, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), warned her members were not prepared to be used as “sandbags” every time there was a storm.
After all the plaudits, hand-clapping and high-faluting talk about “not all heroes wearing capes”, those on the frontline are finding themselves firefighting with ever-diminishing resources once again.
HSE CEO Paul Reid has said the challenges facing his service are greater now than at any time since the pandemic hit.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he believes Ireland, as a nation, is “a little bit crestfallen” and “a little bit heartbroken”.
Watching what is happening in Austria and Germany is sobering. Another lockdown is not something we should have to countenance.
Compliance has been partly dented because of mixed results from depending on government action to avoid past pitfalls. Former US president Calvin Coolidge said the best help benevolence and philanthropy can give is that which induces everybody to help himself. We can still rely on each other. For just as disappointment is probably inevitable, disillusion is always a choice.