In 1852, Ivan Turgenev published Sketches From a Hunter’s Album. He used his passion for hunting as an excuse to travel Russia and detail the abject, pitiless lives led by serfs. They were landless and little more than slaves.
Millions led lives as grim as the bottom-of-the-ladder tenant farmers in Famine Ireland. Turgenev’s writing was regarded as subversive by landowners but was so powerful that it, it is said, led Tsar Alexander II to abolish serfdom. A new world order began.
It may be facile to compare a worker in today’s Ireland with the lives of Russian serfs 170 years ago. Nevertheless, yesterday’s revelation that employers had been told of the results of their workers’ Covid-19 tests before the workers themselves cannot but be judged as an example of the hubris and hierarchies described by Turgenev.
Chief medical officer Tony Holohan called it “a breach of confidentiality”. HSE chief Paul Reid later seemed to defend the action, as it was taken during exceptional times. Since this pandemic began, we have consistently been told patient confidentiality is the priority.
There is no justifiable reason for employers to tell workers they have contracted Covid-19.