Pádraig Hoare: Many choose to flagrantly ignore restrictions

Pádraig Hoare: Many choose to flagrantly ignore restrictions
Gardai block the entrance to a full car park at Lahinch beach where many people continued to flock to West Clare beaches despite repeated calls for the public to observe COVID-19 social distancing advice. Picture: Press 22

The old adage that sound advice is only as good as those that heed it has never seemed so stark.

No matter how many pleadings from medical experts on the front lines of this crisis, a noticeable chunk of the Irish population has simply refused to respect the guidelines on social distancing in recent days.

Beauty spots were packed, congregation warnings ignored, and beaches thronged. What brought out the best in some in our hospitals brought out the worst in others in public places.

Despite clear and incontrovertible directions to keep a safe distance from others, many chose to flagrantly ignore the memo.

It is coming up to four years since the people of this country rose in unison to honour the 100th anniversary of the men and women of 1916 and beyond, who had given their lives to secure the very freedoms we take for granted today.

How ironic that the very freedom for which these bravest souls sacrificed everything is the same freedom we may now have to forego because some citizens chose not to give it the reverence it deserved in an unprecedented national crisis.

This is how it has to be. The Government is expected to consider further measures — short of a national lockdown — to combat the risk of Covid-19 spreading, in what would seem like draconian measures in normal times. But these are not normal times.

The National Public Health Emergency Team will meet to consider if those further measures are now required as social distancing guidelines are ignored by some.

Restrictions on visiting beaches, parks, mountain trails, and other areas will be considered. Glendalough car parking and other facilities have been closed by Wicklow County Council already, with thousands visiting and ignoring social distancing.

On Morning Ireland, Health Minister Simon Harris laid out the disturbing reality of failing to adhere to the practice. Following the simple guidelines would be the difference between lives being saved and lives being lost, he said.

Ireland “cannot go the way” of Italy, he added.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said full lockdown was not the answer either.

“If you have a very sharp lockdown, then the virus might come roaring back,” he said.

He offered an olive branch to those who have not practiced social distancing, saying they should not be berated for it.

“What you need is a comprehensive strategy involving social restrictions, social distancing, testing, contact tracing, and isolation,” he said. “That’s very much what they’ve done in South Korea and that’s actually the model we’re following here.”

South Korea

Pádraig Hoare: Many choose to flagrantly ignore restrictions

South Korea was better equipped to deal with an outbreak such as the Covid-19 pandemic because it was caught short in 2015, when the Middle East respiratory syndrome saw 36 dead and 17,000 quarantined, shaking its economy and trust in public health.

As a result, Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sprung into action when news of a novel coronavirus began to emanate from Wuhan.

Mass testing kits were made, and the new specialised infection units in South Korean hospitals were prepared for what was to come.

Mass testing has been done, many indiscriminately, with more than 338,000 tested by yesterday. More than 20,000 are being tested daily at 600-plus sites nationally.

Roadside testing in huge white tents, comprehensive data taking using GPS to observe disease patterns, and 24-hour turnaround in results has made South Korea the beacon for many health observers.

All of these moves have been made in conjunction with social distancing and measures such as remote working, proving the power of communities staying apart for the good of the population.


Pádraig Hoare: Many choose to flagrantly ignore restrictions
A policeman from the Guardia di Finanza asks a woman walking her dogs to leave the beach in Ostia, outside Rome. Picture: Getty

The human catastrophe in Italy has led to some of the most draconian curbs on civil movement anywhere in the world. Physical activities outside such as kicking around a football is banned, even if a person is playing on their own.

Only shops, banks, and pharmacies are left open as Italy grapples with its tragedy. Italians cannot cross municipal lines, save for “non-deferrable and proven business or health reasons or other urgent matters”.

To go to the shop or pharmacy, Italians must fill out a self-declaration form to justify why they are leaving their home.

More than 40,000 have been fined for not following the rules during the first week of the lockdown.


Pádraig Hoare: Many choose to flagrantly ignore restrictions

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has warned citizens the “worst is yet to come” as the pandemic further grips the nation. His cabinet will look to further the 15-day restrictions on movement today.

The restrictions mean 46m people cannot leave their homes save for visits to the shops for food or seeking medical care.

More than 52,000 extra workers are assisting the health effort, including 14,000 retired doctors and nurses.

Almost 3,000 soldiers are disinfecting airports, ports and other areas. Some 260,000 police officers and 131,000 military personnel have taken to the streets to impose the lockdown.

Madrid has seen drones fly over to monitor movement, while giving warnings to stay at home through speakers.

Almost 4,000 have been fined already, with prison sentences threatened for repeat offenders.


Pádraig Hoare: Many choose to flagrantly ignore restrictions

By contrast to the rest of the world, Wuhan in China is starting to ease the restrictions placed on its 11m citizens in Hubei province, which has 60m overall.

Residents were allowed to leave their homes for the first time in weeks, going to stores and even enjoying brisk walks. There was also the first train to bring 1,000 workers to their place of work across the province.

If workers did not have a temperature and could provide a green health code certificate for their employers, they were allowed back to work, guidelines for local authorities said.

Wuhan will gradually reopen for business, the authorities added.

Since the January 23 lockdown began, non-residents have been confined indoors. They are now being allowed to leave the city.

The National Health Commission said in its latest update that although nine more deaths attributed to Covid-19 had occurred in Wuhan, there were no new cases in the Hubei province for five straight days.

The death toll in China has reached 3,270, with confirmed cases at 81,093 by Sunday.

The Central Leading Group said: “The spread of the virus nationwide, particularly in the epicentre of Wuhan, has been effectively stemmed.”

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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