Irish Examiner View: Anger adds to pandemic response challenge

Everything we do is an expression of our beliefs, needs, and character. Very often, more often than not really, everything we do is an expression of how we balance those forces. Those who choose to disregard social distancing limitations put in place — and probably to be renewed — to protect the common good express one set of values. The great majority who accept those constraints, many at consid
Irish Examiner View: Anger adds to pandemic response challenge

Everything we do is an expression of our beliefs, needs, and character. Very often, more often than not really, everything we do is an expression of how we balance those forces.

Those who choose to disregard social distancing limitations put in place — and probably to be renewed — to protect the common good express one set of values. The great majority who accept those constraints, many at considerable personal cost, express another set of values.

Today, that responsible majority might do little more than express dismay at those who scoff at restrictions. Dismay might be the only reaction today but unless the pandemic is curbed quickly, or if a second wave accelerates infections and deaths, it will become real anger. That anger will make an already difficult situation even more so.

Anger is already playing a part in judging how we, all of us, have responded to the challenge. Though no Government is above criticism or beyond questioning — most especially an interim one like ours — some of the charges being made against Government, the health service and senior health officials are so skewed that they can hardly be taken seriously and must be seen as part of the problem rather than the solution. Suggesting that, even a this moment of once-in-a-lifetime crisis, will provoke more skewed criticism.

Government is chastised for not having enough personal protection equipment (PPE) but which government had? How might any government build up stocks when bought-and-paid-for PPE supplies are diverted on an airport runway? How might any government build up stocks when domestic capacity to produce them is so limited?

Government is chastised for not having enough personal protection equipment for nursing homes, the epicentres of our pandemic. Government is chastised for not ordering more HSE staff to work in nursing homes despite the fact, one freely endorsed and accepted by this society, that these for-profit institutions are private businesses where undervalued and all-but irreplaceable workers are lucky to get the minimum wage. Have nursing home owners no PPE obligations to their staff or residents? If not why not?

Government is chastised because it is taking so long to establishing testing yet the organisation entrusted with that testing is defined by its dysfunction. This is not an overnight realisation. Inertia and opportunism have, whether we admit it or not, defied government after government trying but failing to reform our health service.

Government is chastised for delays to the leaving cert because, as the pandemic rages, it cannot offer certainty on exam dates and yet few can agree there is a straightforward solution.

It would be preposterous to suggest our government’s, or any government’s, response is perfect. Post pandemic there will be myriad reviews of how we responded.

The unified, over-riding priority must be controlling the pandemic and finding a vaccine. Relentless attacks on those trying to achieve that only add to our problems — especially as it’s our pandemic not just the Government’s.

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