Irish Examiner View: Tedium not an option on Covid-19

Irish Examiner View: Tedium not an option on Covid-19
Signs at the entrance to Cork University Hospital. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Coronavirus crisis

Curiosity always has been and remains one of the defining, driving forces of humanity. It is not an exaggeration to suggest curiosity is one of civilisations’ creative catalysts. 

It was, among other things, the energy behind the first Count of Vidigueira’s — Vasco da Gama in the schoolbooks — courageous decision, in 1497, to sail away from Europe to see what lay beyond the horizon. 

His curiosity meant he became the first European to reach India by sea. That same gnawing need-to-know brought English historian Robin Flowers to the Blaskets in 1910 so he might immerse himself in a language and culture he had come to love. 

The legacies of their curiosities are alive today.

The opposite of curiosity is tedium, that resignation induced by familiarity, uncertainty dragging on for too long; too much unmatchable challenge, and far, far too many disruptions to a lifestyle many of us had taken for granted. 

If we have not reached the tedium stage of how we view and work together against the Covid-19 pandemic, we seem to be on the very cusp of that moment. How wise that relaxation, that natural concession to human nature, might be only time can tell because science cannot yet give a definitive or even a fully reassuring answer to the most pressing questions.

The publication of a report yesterday detailing the first Irish known case of Covid-19 that had no epidemiological link to other cases underlines that not-knowing. 

In that case, a 43-year-old man presented to CUH and was treated as someone with community-acquired chest infection would be treated but he later tested positive for Covid-19 and tragically died. Our understanding of Covid-19 has advanced since then, but not nearly far enough.

Those concerns must be seen in the context of improving figures on this island. This fall celebrates the communal effort required to achieve them. 

They are behind the reopening of parts of the economy too. They also mean that nursing comes can reopen their doors to visitors bringing to an end one of the most difficult isolations of the pandemic.

As those figures improve, it may seem tedious to argue for continuing caution but a new, growing outbreak in Beijing, where there had been no local infections for 55 days, suggests otherwise. This gives us an advantage da Gama did not have. 

We know what lies over the horizon. Let’s prepare realistically for it and in every way we can. Tedium is not an option.


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