In the old God’s time, there was a kind of Irish mammy, now on the Red List, if not already extinct, who could offer the sternest warning in the gentlest way. ‘Don’t go wild’ was their stock-in-trade order to children of all ages undertaking any new adventure. Everything, from a first disco to going to an auction to try to buy a house, was addressed with that call for grounded common sense. This seems an apt moment to remember and apply it.
The Cabinet approved a longed-for easing of many pandemic restrictions from May 10. Travel outside your county, larger outdoor meet-ups, hairdressing, sports training, and religious services will again be part of our lives. Ministers sanctioned the faster-than-expected lifting of curbs approved by a Cabinet subcommittee on Wednesday night. That decision must have been informed by the consequences of the premature relaxation to allow a ‘normal Christmas’.
Nevertheless, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) warned that daily cases could reach 1,200 if there is a social-contact ‘step change’ next month. Nphet cautioned that might lead to around 101,000, in total, between now and the end of September.
It is, at this stage, an understood characteristic of the pandemic that the best-laid plans can, and will, change, but one thing is certain: Infection rates will surge again if we push the boundaries of these relaxed measures, measures made possible by an accelerating vaccination programme. Should that programme deliver on targets, an objective defined by deliveries of drugs beyond the control of anyone on this island, the next round of relaxations will be another step in the right direction.
It would be unduly negative to point to the catastrophe shaking India to its very foundations, but, like our Christmas relaxation, every episode in this pandemic offers its own lesson. India is in the grip of a nightmare, because of a complacent political leadership unable to appreciate the threat involved. A greatly reduced health service and huge social inequity also played their part. Let’s hope we never find out, but what kind of a resurgence in infection rates could our health system cope with before collapsing like India’s has?
Taking that old Irish mammies’ advice was hardly ever more sensible or necessary.
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