The admirable sense of community spirit in the face of the threat to lives and livelihoods from the coronavirus Covid-19 is only as strong as its weakest link. However heartening it is to see society in Ireland pull together, while staying apart, there was evidence aplenty this weekend that not everybody is playing their part, particularly but not exclusively younger generations. This kind of wanton misbehaviour is nothing short of disgraceful.
Following a commendable address to a worried nation by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar on St Patrick's Day, the Oireachtas last week moved quickly to pass stringent new laws, included among which are powers to confine a person to home. It would be unfortunate, indeed, for the authorities to have to use such powers, but use them they should if needs be as we enter the critical phase of the fight against the virus.
Nor should the wider public be under any doubt that this week and next is the critical phase, by which is meant the threat to the lives of many thousands of our citizens will become apparent. It is already evident that the threat to livelihood exists, with predictions now that unemployment could rise to 400,000 as a direct consequence of the virus.
The Government last week moved to ease the immediate financial burden on those most affected and should do more, as required, should the need arise. The economy is being, in effect, put to sleep for between three to six months. When it awakes, the consequences will be evident. It is not known yet whether enough has been done at a wider international level, particularly by the European Central Bank, to minimise those consequences, but it almost certainly has not. It is reassuring, if belated that the European institutions have promised to do more should the need arise, and it is to be hoped that solidarity and collective purpose will not once again be found wanting at the highest levels if or when that times comes.
At a more local and immediately level, however, the behaviour of some people, admittedly a small minority, towards the threat has been disappointing in the extreme, be that groups of younger people hanging around together in public despite all requests to desist; or those adults who pointedly refuse to maintain proper social distance in public despite fervent requests to do so; or indeed the downright rudeness of some people towards those trying to implement coherence and organisation in supermarkets and elsewhere still open for public need. Anecdotal evidence in this regard is shocking. What are we to make of people who will not do the basics, in terms of queuing at a requisite distance and showing patience and understanding towards those in the frontline working heroically to see us all through the crisis? These people are the weakest link. It may be that they will personally avoid contamination or the worst consequences of it, but their behaviour is appalling and the vast majority of compliant and concerned citizens should not be shy in making known their views.
We will not defeat this virus unless we all work together, while physically apart. The few who are not working together are posing unconscionable risks to the majority of decent people.