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The price of restrictions is high but it's worth paying

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Dr Cillian de Gascun of the expert group advising the Government recently said if there were 100 new cases a day there could be a rowing back of some of the measures loosening restrictions

Dr Cillian de Gascun of the expert group advising the Government recently said if there were 100 new cases a day there could be a rowing back of some of the measures loosening restrictions

Dr Cillian de Gascun of the expert group advising the Government recently said if there were 100 new cases a day there could be a rowing back of some of the measures loosening restrictions

If health experts wanted to put the 'frighteners' on us yesterday, they certainly succeeded. They issued a stern warning that we could return to phase two of restrictions if new Covid-19 cases top 100 per day again.

The numbers have been creeping back up, especially among the younger members of our society. During those lockdown months we were repeatedly told that the "next fortnight" was crucial to flatten the curve of the virus. Despite the public's generous response, the pandemic still took its toll with 25,698 cases and the sad loss of 1,749 lives. But it could have been much worse.

The last few days have seen worrying indications that things are in danger of getting bad again, especially with the rise in the R number which indicates the rate of infection. If it goes back to where it was in March then we are in real trouble.

This is why the Government has paused phase four, which was due to start next Monday. And it's why Dr Cillian De Gascun from the National Virus Reference Laboratory said that if Ireland registers triple-figure cases daily, we "would be looking at perhaps a step backwards into phase two".

That's lockdown territory again and limits on how far you can travel from home, which is what we certainly want to avoid.

Pausing phase four has angered publicans and some politicians, especially in rural communities where the pub often serves as a social centre. But reopening schools and colleges must be the focus. Extra resources will be needed by Simon Harris in the Department of Further and Higher Education and Norma Foley in the Department of Education to ensure the 4,000 institutions they oversee meet health requirements.

The two ministers also have to deal with the aftermath of the delay in issuing the Leaving Cert results until September 7. This has angered parents and students, who complained they were not consulted about the date of the calculated grades release. USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick rightly pointed out that all the Leaving Cert U-turns, delays and changes were adding to student stress.

Whatever about issuing the results, we have to do all we can to ensure that our one million-plus students get back to regular classes and lectures in the autumn. We owe it to them to get their futures back on track, but it will require effort on all our parts.

Just how quickly things can get out of hand is shown by what's happening in the worst affected countries. India now has more than one million cases, Brazil has over two million and the US over 3.5 million. It took Brazil just 27 days to go from one to two million cases.

Ireland must get its R rate down and keep it there to avoid overwhelming our health system. The price is high but it's worth paying.

Irish Independent