The close to 4,000 daily cases are a searing reminder the pandemic is far from over. Yet troubling as the figures are, a sense of panic is missing. There may be some puzzlement that the HSE is not calling for a reintroduction of restrictions to curb the spread. Instead, it is appealing for everyone to look at their own behaviour.
While director Paul Reid has expressed concern at rising numbers and the disproportionate impact on the health system, a pragmatic approach is nonetheless deemed more appropriate – for the moment.
High levels of vaccination and hard-won experience plus some dramatic new developments in treatment have given grounds for optimism on avoiding the severe outcomes we have seen up to now.
Our vaccine wall, and the potential of new treatments, have greatly enhanced protection and boosted confidence in preventing the most extreme effects of Covid. Whether this is because the threat is no longer new or we may have developed more mental and emotional capacity to cope is open to question.
But in practical terms, the HSE is rolling out booster shots for those aged 60 and over. Many will have been greatly encouraged to hear Tánaiste Leo Varadkar say it would “make sense” to extend the booster programme to the wider population or “any adult who is more than six months after their second dose”.
He also revealed the Government has been encouraging the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to investigate the use of what may be a magic bullet – in the form of a tablet – that drastically cuts the threat of serious illness. Pfizer has just stopped the trial of the experimental antiviral pill early, after it was shown to cut by 89pc the chances of hospitalisation or death for adults. So positive were the findings that it now plans to submit results to the US Food and Drug Administration as part of an emergency use application.
All told, we have come a long way since hearing that we might have to wait five years for a vaccine. Even without boosters their benefits are clear, dramatically cutting the odds of death, with most studies showing 90pc effectiveness – even after the Delta variant became widespread.
While much has been achieved, the priority remains to prevent an overwhelming resurgence. To save people’s lives, it is vital to secure hospital beds and medical workers for Covid-19 patients, with some of our hospitals already overloaded. So, if you socialise, you still must be mindful of your contacts in the days after.
Steinbeck wrote that we spend our time searching for security but hate it when we get it. After almost two years of the pandemic, it would be nice to give it a try.
Things are changing, but the improvement required to shake off the grip of the virus is some way off. Just as before, our collective safety relies on all of us looking out for each other.