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We are making progress - but caution is still vital

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'Any relaxation of restrictions would have to be slow and gradual, according to Leo Varadkar.'  Photo: Steve Humphreys

'Any relaxation of restrictions would have to be slow and gradual, according to Leo Varadkar.' Photo: Steve Humphreys

'Any relaxation of restrictions would have to be slow and gradual, according to Leo Varadkar.' Photo: Steve Humphreys

'Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."

Alexander Pope penned his words long before the Taoiseach warned us not to set our hopes too high on lifting the lockdown.

Any relaxation of restrictions would have to be slow and gradual, according to Leo Varadkar.

It is very hard to make a case for anything but caution, given the threats are still all-pervasive.

The country is certainly not out of danger yet but, said Mr Varadkar, the Government would hope there is light at the end of the tunnel - but we are very much still in the tunnel with some distance to go, he added.

Yet there was nothing slow or gradual about the pandemonium the pandemic has caused across Europe. According to the European Central Bank, the economy has experienced a record downturn.

Its president, Christine Lagarde, said the pace of the decline was "of a magnitude and speed unprecedented in peacetime".

The ECB is now practically paying banks to take money to pump into business to keep them from going under. It is an extraordinary move made necessary by the havoc Covid-19 is wreaking across the continent. The virus has frozen economic activity in all countries of the euro area and around the globe. But although business is plunging amid the shutdowns, hitting everything from florists to factories, the labour market is proving more durable thanks to generous government support.

Unemployment rose only slightly in March, to 7.4pc from 7.3pc in February.

It is something to be thankful for on this Labour Day long weekend. But such State protection will not last indefinitely.

The fallout from the emergency must be managed internationally with maximum collaboration. Everywhere has been hit. Even in the US, the world's economic powerhouse, the picture is alarming.

States and even continents are struggling to cope with the cascading effects of the crisis, which only a concerted global effort can eventually counter.

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Despite the stresses and relentless demands, there are some grounds to believe we are making progress.

As Health Minister Simon Harris pointed out, the Covid-19 reproductive rate, or R number, for the coronavirus remains stable at between 0.5 and 0.8. This means an infected person is now passing it on to fewer than one person as opposed to 2.4 people when controls came in on March 27.

But, as the Taoiseach said, the lifting of restrictions cannot mirror the way in which they were escalated. So even in these strange times - or especially in such strange times - we might console ourselves with the thought just three things are said to be needed to be happy in this world: someone to love, something to do and something to hope for.

There is frustration that the rhythm between active and passive time-spans has been so disrupted. But for the moment raging against the machine is futile.


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