Thin patience and low optimism greets government's lockdown exit plan 

The weight of a Level 5 lockdown is evident in the response of the Irish Examiner's readers to the lockdown exit plan.  
Thin patience and low optimism greets government's lockdown exit plan 

The Irish Examiner's readers have described their low optimism ahead of the government's plans to exit the Level 5 lockdown. Picture: Julien Behal

This week the government announced plans for an easing of restrictions in the weeks and months ahead and set out their target goals in the national vaccination programme. 

It comes three months after the country entered its third lockdown in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

For a full breakdown of the exit's timeline, including what restrictions ease and when they do, a detailed brief of the lockdown exit can be found here.

Some of the key dates include the full return of children to schools from April 12 as well as an extension of the domestic travel limit from 5km to 20km from your home, or anywhere within your county. 

The government has also introduced what has become known as the "vaccine bonus" which allows people who are fully inoculated from the disease to immediately meet indoors without social distancing and without wearing a mask.

The Irish Examiner asked our readers to tell us what they think of the government's Level 5 exit plan and how they feel about the relaxation of the new rules. 

No increased optimism after the announcement 

While one respondent said, "I feel now there's an end in sight to the lockdown that's been going on since January," the vast majority of respondents said they felt no renewed sense of optimism after the published lockdown exit plan with some respondents saying they could not bring themselves to hope for better in case they were let down. 

One reader, Andrew said that "after every government announcement I feel frustrated, confused and irritated."

"Those emotions suppress any feelings of optimism."

Adding to his annoyance is the fact that, in his mind, "this isn't an exit plan." 

"We have been strung along for months on end now, being told that the end is near and we're on the final stretch."

"This so-called 'easing of restrictions' is laughable and for me personally doesn't signify any change from the previous three months. I am a young and healthy college student and I am sick and tired of the government's response to the coronavirus," he said. 

Another reader, Sean O'Sullivan, said transparency remains an issue with the government and thinks there were too many leaks in advance of the annoucement. 

"This government has a very poor record with communication," he said.

The ghost of Christmas features in Easter travel plans 

The government's delay in easing travel limits until after the bank holiday weekend has been welcomed by respondents who said it is best not to do so.

Some respondents said the Easter weekend could mirror the Christmas festive period and result in a renewed wave of infection. 

"I think it's good that people aren't allowed to travel over Easter. We saw how that went over Christmas," said one respondent. 

"Huge mistakes were made last year with the accelerated reopening and in December too. We were victims of the Christmas chaos for three months," Geraldine Gowing said. 

However, some have said this restriction is pointless as many people will still meet up regardless and have been doing so up until this month. 

"The travel limit is being ignored left, right and centre so I really don't see the point of it at all," one respondent commented. 

"People are doing this anyway so the government's decisions feel redundant. Parks or playgrounds around Cork City have been busy at weekends for weeks now."

"People make their own decisions based on what they see in their community and are largely ignoring restrictions at this stage," according to Niall Burke. 

Back to school, backed mostly

Nearly all of the respondents were happy to see children return to school from April 12 with many citing education's importance for their development and wellbeing. 

"Children need to be back at school and interacting with fellow pupils and teachers," said Valerie. 

Anthony McCarthy, another respondent said: "They should have been able to go back awhile ago. I think the remote learning was difficult."

Some respondents said they think teachers should be prioritised for vaccination and highlighted their concerns for schools as a source of Covid-19 outbreaks. 

"They should have given teachers the option of being vaccinated before they returned to work," Katherine said, adding she thinks children have been neglected throughout the pandemic. 

Disrupted lives clear in overlooked areas

Despite many people being cautious about a reopening of society and economy before the Easter bank holiday weekend, many respondents said the lockdown exit does not go far enough. 

Many said they would like to see the return of outdoor exercise and the return of some non-essential retail and hospitality services, while others feel mental health continues to be overlooked and religious services should be permitted to resume.

Others voiced frustration that international travel is still permitted while domestic travel is still restricted. Some welcomed the introduction of mandatory quarantine but said it does not go far enough.

The disruption of people’s lives by the pandemic was also laid bare when respondents identified what they thought was overlooked.

“I was hoping that the government considers reopening the passport office,” said Manasa Manjunath Hegde, “Our passport application was rejected even when we had an emergency to travel. This is really heartbreaking.” 

“There has been no mention of weddings,” said Tom Sawyer, “There are many couples who have postponed their nuptials, sometimes many times, and they would like to know where weddings fit into the exit plan." 

“Where are arts, dance, and other social activities? Why the focus on GAA - a close contact sport?” Adam commented.

In the days ahead

To the question; ‘What are you most looking forward to doing in the weeks ahead?’ many of our readers were downbeat, responding that there was nothing in these easing of the restrictions for them.

Of those who found some positives, seeing friends, travelling beyond the 5k and getting their Covid-19 jab were the most popular answers.

One respondent commented: “Anything has to be better than everyday feeling the same as it has been for over 3 months now.”

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