It will be two months this week since the first case of coronavirus, Covid-19, was diagnosed in Ireland. The days seem to have passed slowly but time has moved apace all the same. Depending on the relative circumstances of our isolation, many will be surprised that it has been a full two months since that case came to light. Much has happened since, not least the tragic deaths of more than 1,000 people, most of them elderly, infirm and unwell and many with underlying illnesses. Their deaths have left a void inside the lives of family and friends, the pain of their passing exacerbated by the specific circumstances in each case and the inability to mourn and grieve according to the comforting rituals of this country. In due time there should be a national commemoration to mark this great loss and to acknowledge the suffering of those left behind. In time, but first the country must come through the next phase of what is a great national trauma.
In our mood of the nation opinion poll today, conducted by Kantar, it is clear that the determination of the country remains resolute in the fight against Covid-19. One of the more heartening findings is a noticeable increase in support for the view that the country will come through the ordeal should we "stick together". Yet there are indications that the lockdown, essential though it is widely accepted to be, is having a depressing impact on the national mood. For there is also a noticeable increase in the effects of the new reality, with significant numbers citing their loss of "freedom" as that which is impacting on them most, a loss felt even more keenly than the absence of social interaction. It would seem the spirit of the lockdown, which has given rise to renewed community spirit and neighbourliness, is beginning to fray at the edges somewhat, even though the public remains determined to see it through.
There is a message here for the authorities, which the public also strongly credits. In fact, approval for the Government's handling of the crisis remains in the remarkable 80pc range. However, the authorities would be well advised to now map out a clear path forward for the public, to show light at the end of the tunnel, not because the public's solidarity and fortitude is necessarily at risk, but because people need and deserve to see the light now that the infection curve has been flattened and the next stage in the battle is about to commence.
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has said that such a map will be outlined before the end of the month. With this initiative, it will be important that the continued buy-in from the public is achieved. But the authorities undoubtedly have difficult decisions to make which will require great wisdom and involve imperfect balances. While the protection of life must be first and foremost among the considerations, the detrimental effects of the lockdown on the economy must also be taken into account, for in the longer term these effects may have equal if not greater impact on the health and wellbeing of citizens.
These are complex questions involving science, economics and psychology, which will require sensitivity and sound judgment. But let us now begin to find that necessary balance towards maintaining and enhancing the great social cohesion already clearly evident.