We are not out of the woods yet, but at last we can see a clearing in the distance, hopefully by summer's end. This will be a summer like no other in living memory, but the public at large, having adjusted so well - albeit with personal difficulty in many cases and no little tragedy in some - to restrictions on their lives and livelihoods in the fight against Covid-19 will now surely redouble their efforts to come through the next phase in relative good order.
The announced plan to lift restrictions and the proposed phased reopening of the country is tantamount to releasing a pressure valve on pent-up frustrations and emotions. A finely judged plan was required and would seem to have been delivered. However, the next, and, in many ways, more difficult phase in the fight against the coronavirus can not be placed entirely upon the shoulders of the public which has acted so admirably to date. It is now critically important that the authorities put in place a fit-for-purpose testing and contact-tracing regime which will be essential to a successful outcome by this autumn.
Since coronavirus was first detected in this country, the health authorities here and at international level have emphasised the need for proper testing and tracing capabilities. On the back foot from the outset, this country, like many others, has struggled to get up to speed in this regard. Repeated promises that such a regime was being ramped up have consistently fallen short of expectations. It is easy to be critical. The public has been largely understanding of various shortcomings and tolerant in the circumstances. However, now that a willing public is being expected to buy into the plan to contend with the latest phase, so, too, must the authorities up their game in relation to speedy testing, swift turnaround of results and urgent contact tracing on those found to be infected.
The most tantalising aspects on the plan announced by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, last Friday is that it offers the sweet prospect of a return to a normality so long taken for granted. Undoubtedly, it will be a new normality. So be it. It would seem the plan was hard won in the bargaining between the science community which has led the country so well so far, and a reassertion of the requirements of society and the economy as envisaged by a body politic with its finger close to the pulse of the nation. These were difficult judgments to balance.
It is to be expected that both sides in the argument can re-join behind the plan in the hope that the five stages can be transversed without the need to take a step backwards or indeed forwards with undue haste. We remain in this together. Furthermore, it is more important than ever that a new government with a broad democratic mandate following the recent election be put in place to lead the country at this critical juncture and beyond. In that regard, the Green Party is urged to hold firm to its principles but to be prepared to fight for them inside of government, rather than from the opposition benches.