Understandably, this is the issue few of us want to talk about. But the harsh reality is that Covid still lurks in the shadows and it’s time to reflect on all we have learned over the past two years and act with prudence.
In these summer days, we are faced with the reality that Covid cases are on the rise. It begs serious questions about what may lie ahead once cold weather kicks in and people congregate indoors in greater numbers.
The Department of Health and the HSE have a big job on their hands in trying to figure out a booster Covid-19 vaccine programme and also rolling out anti-flu jabs. It is a huge challenge but the authorities have already surprised many sceptics with their efficiency in getting the nation vaccinated against this scourge and making all our lives much more liveable.
The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has doubled since the start of this month. There are suggestions from medical experts that the numbers could well be seriously understated.
Nobody is suggesting just yet that we should return to the grim era of lockdown and isolation which we suffered periodically since March 2020. But it may be time to consider some pre-emptive measures from the stitch-in-time-saves-nine department.
Already, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has suggested it may be timely to encourage people to wear face masks on public transport as well as in more crowded indoor gatherings.
This seems very sensible and could help reduce a feared autumn surge in cases. But it will require a new public messaging campaign to explain to people.
If it is presented as it should be – as something which could head off the more draconian constrictions of the past two years – then it is highly likely that the Irish people will wholeheartedly collaborate with it.
The experience of the “two Covid years” teaches us that the Irish people were diligent and compliant. It must also be acknowledged that Government and health authorities did a good job. We should bank that for encouragement facing future challenges, which now seem quite likely.
One of the big lessons of the Covid pandemic is that we must collectively learn how to deal with new outbreaks of such viruses while minimising resultant social and economic disruption. The entire nation cannot take to the bed every time a virus or other health emergency strikes across the country.
We have to learn other coping mechanisms and put those in place. There are understandable tensions between the backroom health professionals and the elected politicians who must present and sell remedies to the ordinary citizens.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) served an important purpose but is now a thing of the past.
With this in mind, the Government would benefit from a new expert group to make data-led recommendations. This must happen very soon.