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We can celebrate progress but we must stay cautious


Professor Philip Nolan, head of the Covid-19 modelling group

Professor Philip Nolan, head of the Covid-19 modelling group

Professor Philip Nolan, head of the Covid-19 modelling group

However we move from phase to phase, Covid-19 will cast its shadow. But the bleakness of the last few months has made light spots, such as they are, so much more precious.

When the words "astonishingly stable" were used by Professor Philip Nolan, head of the Covid-19 modelling group, there was a sense something weighty and oppressive has shifted in our minds. He was referring to the fact there were good signs the first phase of reopening has not had an adverse effect.

Even if the sun was not high in the heavens on a bank holiday weekend, the news from Leo Varadkar that Ireland is "on track" to move to phase two on easing restrictions on June 8 would also have lifted hearts. He said it was "reassuring" to see the numbers going in the "right direction". The progress, so long as it is maintained, clears the way to reopen primary and secondary schools at the end of August. As Mr Varadkar noted, the experience of other countries that have partially reopened schools will be pivotal.

The jagged edges of the last few months leave scars, with too many bright lights blown out too soon for anyone to be under any illusions this insidious threat can be easily shaken off. We have earned ourselves a bit of space, but this battle must be continuous.

To think otherwise would be an affront to all those who have done so much to get us to this place. If we are cautious and heed expert advice, we should be able to move forward; but in the words of Machiavelli: "Never was anything great achieved without danger."

The character of the next few years could be determined by the hard choices made in the next few weeks and months. The government formation talks have moved into the concluding stages. The size of the deficit, how the billions the pandemic have swallowed can be best balanced over time, housing provision and fixing health will all be to the fore.

There is much brainstorming to be done, and the temptation to be diverted by "blame-storming" must be avoided. Now is not the time for obsessing on things which might have been done better.

The incoming government is probably facing the most formidable in-tray any administration has had to deal with since the foundation of our State. As the ESRI reminds us, the economy is facing its largest recession in history. We have moved to a critical period where the right moves may make us a little stronger, the wrong ones would be ruinous. There are good reasons why patience is "the conquering virtue". Conventional wisdom tends towards a comforting consensus whereby with every hard lesson some good will come. But failure to buy time will be paid for with more hard lessons.

Irish Independent