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Easing of curbs depends on our own good sense

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People wearing masks in Dublin city centre. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

People wearing masks in Dublin city centre. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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People wearing masks in Dublin city centre. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tomorrow, we hope, will start us on the road towards living with the Covid-19 threat in the most practical and normal way possible while minimising risk and stopping the spread of this virus.

It has been a long road since the national lockdown in mid-March. We have learnt many lessons along the way, including the undeniable truth that locking down was far simpler than any gradual re-opening.

But we also learnt that just because we are "plague weary" in no way means Covid-19 will fade away. We now know this virus will be with us for a longer stint and our main focus of hope will be a reliable vaccine emerging perhaps inside the coming 12 months.

Tomorrow also, 3,500 publicans and their families will hope they will get the green light to finally re-open in seven days time. That announcement will be awaited by tens of thousands of people who rely on their local bar as a social hub of friendship, fun and community.

The new Government, in office since June 27, has had a mixed record on managing the response to Covid-19. It is clear the caretaker administration which managed the early response did better, even allowing for the simpler and more discrete tasks which faced them.

We must acknowledge Taoiseach Micheál Martin and his team have relied very heavily on health experts' and scientists' advice and taken the bulk of their leads from them.

This has been very important for Ireland's international standing as a country which "does the right thing" for its own people and as a "good neighbour" on the global scene.

But there have been mixed and sometimes contradictory messages also. New Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, from whom much was expected, has had a difficult start.

The upcoming announcements come with an expectation there will be some offerings of hope - especially an extension of numbers allowed to attend sporting events. There is also a hope of some movement on allowing more air travel in and out of Ireland. As an island nation which projects upon the world on many levels, change here would be most welcome.

Against that there are some disturbing indications on the need to reduce the level of Covid-19 infections. This new week begins with deep concerns about a level of 67.8 infections per 100,000 of population in Dublin and 63.1 per 100,000 in Limerick.

That seriously raises the prospect of some form of additional restrictions being instituted in these two regions. And if that is deemed necessary, the authorities will be left with little choice.

Otherwise, all eyes will be on Mr Martin and his ministers as they face their biggest challenge since taking office. But success also depends on every citizen to approach these issues with good sense and community responsibility.

Ultimately, the easing of Covid curbs depends on all our behaviour. It's as simple - and as complex - as that.

Irish Independent