Letter to the Editor: Country does not work as a giant hospital

Letter to the Editor: Country does not work as a giant hospital
HSE CEO Paul Reid, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD, with staff members as the Taoiseach visits the COVID-19 Community Assessment Hub in DCU Collins Avenue. (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire)

If science had its way the lockdown would extend indefinitely until there was a vaccine or a treatment for Covid-19. But the political reality is that treating the country as if it were a giant hospital won’t work in the long term. 

Businesses closed, mass unemployment, terrible long-lasting damage to livelihoods and confidence. People cancelling their malignant cancer operations they are so frightened of being in a hospital. Strokes and heart problems unattended. Mental health issues. Domestic violence.

I am delighted our country took the early steps in locking down and that we did slow down this coronavirus in the community. 

But now, after almost five weeks, it seems the news brings us nothing but daily fear. Time to tone it down. Covid-19 is not ebola. We won’t all die next week. Some of us will, yes, because death is part of life.

Without the salve of religion (especially with churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues closed) the people have been forced to put their faith in Science with a capital S. 

If we just do what we are told, obey the numbers and follow the technocrats advise (for we are temporarily in a technocratic state rather than a democracy) then we will avoid death.

But death carries on, and will carry on. Pre-Covid, in 2019, there were 8,618 deaths in Ireland in the first quarter (Jan-April). 

On average this is equivalent to 71 deaths per day. Yes, the death rate will be higher for 2020 due to the coronavirus, but shouldn’t the daily expression of regret and sadness about Covid-19 deaths be extended to all the deaths in Ireland that day?

In my view it is not OK that we have allowed people to die without their loved ones seeing them, that they are buried without ceremony or celebration, that there was no loving goodbye. 

A way must be found for families to visit elderly relatives and to maintain social contact. We need hope now, and this hope is nothing simpler than the freedom to see and hold and be present with the people we love.

Politicians, we elected you to make wise decisions on our behalf. We need your political pragmatism now to lead us out of lockdown (bearing in mind the advice of the scientific community, and maintaining the right to revert to lockdown if the virus escalates again).

One way to relax restrictions would be to allow people unrestricted travel from their home for personal reasons — but not in a private petrol driven vehicle unless there is no other option, or if it is an essential service being provided. 

Electric car, public transport, or going under your own steam (walk, hike, run, bicycle) all permitted. A happy benefit for all in better air quality and a reduction in noise pollution we are all getting used to.

Along with reconnecting our blood and friendship ties we might meet our emissions target and find ourselves to be a healthier nation — a triple whammy!

Alison Hackett

Dún Laoghaire Co Dublin

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