Irish Examiner View: No easy answers post-Covid-19, so patience is essential

A defining characteristic of crisis is uncertainty. Crisis can mean not knowing what might or could happen next and this, naturally, intensifies frustration and generates stress, occasionally panic. Heightened tension at a time of war, natural disaster, famine, economic implosion, or like today, during a pandemic is inevitable.
Irish Examiner View: No easy answers post-Covid-19, so patience is essential
Tourism in Ireland has been decimated by Covid-19. Only 28,000 people arrived into the country in May. Picture: Getty Images
Tourism in Ireland has been decimated by Covid-19. Only 28,000 people arrived into the country in May. Picture: Getty Images

A defining characteristic of crisis is uncertainty. Crisis can mean not knowing what might or could happen next and this, naturally, intensifies frustration and generates stress, occasionally panic. Heightened tension at a time of war, natural disaster, famine, economic implosion, or like today, during a pandemic is inevitable.

Responding to a new, evolving health crisis without the benefit of a vaccine moves what should be an exercise in certainty - planning - towards something far more nebulous. That the Covid-19 pandemic is at different stages of what seems a recognisable cycle in various countries just adds to that uncertainty. Yet, how we respond to the forces changing our world may be, in the longer run, the only thing we have any real control over.

There is nothing nebulous about the impact the pandemic has had and will have, on our capacity to sustain ourselves. The figures are gargantuan, the predictions shuddering. The figures are well-rehearsed but they describe a situation so difficult that they just can't be ignored.

Tourism has been decimated. CSO figures show that in May 2019, 1.8m people arrived in this country. This May that flow, that vital revenue stream, was choked off and only 28,000 people arrived. That collapse is reflected in AIB's Purchasing Managers' Index of Services which records that travel, tourism, and hospitality suffered the most dramatic fall of any sector. About 90% of accommodation or food service workers rely on Covid-19 unemployment payments, the highest ratio of any sector. Their future is uncertain and flat words on a page can hardly describe the anxiety eating at those working or providing work in that sector.

Those workers and business people may, in economic terms, be in the Covid-19 vanguard but they are not the only people under enormous and, unfortunately, increasing pressure. Today is America's Independence Day and the parents of children whose schools have been closed for months must long for even a brief few hours of independence and the resumption of normal schooling. Yet, they face uncertainty even as the normal school reopening date approaches.

That anxiety will be exacerbated by this week's testimony from the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) to the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee. The ASTI suggested that a full reopening of schools for all students may be unlikely this autumn. That is unwelcome but if seen in the context of public health advice it is understandable. Analysis stands where a clear answer is needed.

It is equally true, even if the Government is not yet a week in place, that parents need leadership as it is unimaginably difficult to be a parent, a home worker, and to survive that situation without support. That some children may suffer longer-term health or developmental consequences adds fuel to that fire.

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