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It's not too late to rein in Covid, but it soon could be

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it is Government policy to end the direct provision system, “Covid or no Covid”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it is Government policy to end the direct provision system, “Covid or no Covid”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it is Government policy to end the direct provision system, “Covid or no Covid”

In spite of warnings, change rarely occurs until the status quo becomes more painful than change, wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Currently, the needle on the status-quo-ometer has gone into the red zone.

We either alter our course or brace for a crash landing. The fact that our incidence of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people has overtaken that of the UK in two weeks demands our attention.

Be it message fatigue or a general backlash against being backed into corners by the virus, alarm bells which might have been heeded have either been missed or ignored.

Judging or searching for scapegoats is futile. We need only focus on what we can do to address the spike. Firstly, we need to start afresh with a vigorous national effort to rein in the pandemic. It's not too late yet, but it could be soon.

Our rate stands at 16.9 cases while the UK's number is 16.5. Just weeks ago, when we put together a Green List for travel, our cases per 100,000 people was around five. We can't countenance rampant community spread. There is no running away from a regime of relentless testing and tracing.

Wearing face masks and social distancing for a considerable time to come also has to be accepted.

Rather than expending energy arguing over whether the crisis is under control, it is far better to focus on methodically planning ways to curb its spread. Around the world, countries that fell behind did so gradually.

It takes effort to get buy-in involving something that's difficult or negative, or that involves sacrifice. But we did it during The Emergency, so why not put the same effort into preventing another one?

In the United States, we saw what happened when President Donald Trump put politics first and science second.

Even the wearing of a mask was politicised. Mr Trump's reticence to embrace difficult challenges that don't produce immediate results and to peddle bogus quick fixes has backfired.

Our own government needs to get ahead of the outbreak. Tardiness in dealing with the meat plants was inexcusable. Similarly, fears for the safety of direct provision centres were not addressed.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it is Government policy to end the direct provision system, "Covid or no Covid". But he also said the housing shortage and demand for asylum makes it difficult.

Mr Varadkar was head of the last government and is deputy head of this one, so he is in a position of great responsibility.

There is never a bad time to do the right thing. A resurgence in cases had been anticipated for months.

Epidemiologists and politicians have chimed in with their views on the many still-unanswered questions. Over the coming weeks we will have to come up with the answers.

But we have to change mindsets. Rather than viewing the pandemic as something that is happening to us, we must see it as an attack that we are responding to.

Irish Independent