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'I felt compelled to help with what seemed akin to a national wartime effort'


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Coronavirus swabs from patients are kept in a plastic sealed tub (PA)

Coronavirus swabs from patients are kept in a plastic sealed tub (PA)

Coronavirus swabs from patients are kept in a plastic sealed tub (PA)

Normally, as a post-primary teacher, my working day is regimented and time-kept by a bell.

With Leo Varadkar's March 12 statement from Washington, that seemingly ceaseless rhythm ended.

On the following morning I got to work as best I could, contacting students, reassuring exam groups, assigning work, and planning in the face of the unknown.

In the background, on screens and in the airwaves, there was the pervasive noise of coronavirus chatter, unsettling, fascinating and compelling in equal measure.

As a history teacher, I was attuned to this mixed sensation, vaguely aware that I was now a living witness to an historic, if not epoch-defining, moment. I wondered was this what history actually felt like.

Whether by result of some deep-seated, intoxicating patriotism or a more selfish regard for my own conscience and historical sensibility, I couldn't help but feel compelled to help with what seemed akin to a national wartime effort.

I found an appeal on Twitter by Volunteer Ireland for volunteers to help with Covid-19-related responses.

The following week, workers from the Dublin City Volunteer Centre called me.

With a degree of hesitancy, she asked if I would be comfortable working in a Covid-19 testing centre, greeting patients, checking details and managing the queue for swabbing.

I asked if she could give me a day or two to discuss it with my fiancée and housemate, as, ultimately, if I were to contract Covid-19, I would very likely pass it on to them.

A couple of days later, and with my housemate now volunteering alongside me, I turned up for my first shift.

The testing centre I work in is not an acute centre and so it suspended operations for a short while to allow for the national backlog to clear, before taking on new work.

And so, for the moment, the days slide by slowly, neither totally strange nor completely familiar.

We are living history. The challenges posed by Covid 19 are similar the world over but everybody’s experience of this emergency will be different. In this special series, ‘Lockdown Letters' gives our readers at home and across the globe an opportunity to share their stories about how the Coronavirus and the measures to tackle its spread are impacting their lives in these unprecedented times.

Please email your submission (400 words max.) to stories@independent.ie along with a photograph. We will publish as many letters as possible on Independent.ie and a selection in print every week.

Irish Independent