Ailin Quinlan: Two steps back after a big leap forward, thanks to ‘Covidiots’

We’re not 'all in it together' any more... so says Ailin Quinlan in her weekly column
Ailin Quinlan: Two steps back after a big leap forward, thanks to ‘Covidiots’
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

AH now, come on; it’s time to put on your big boy pants. We were asking for this and worse.

Sure, the stories are legion. There’s the woman who threatened to pee on the ground outside the front door of a shop when staff tried to explain that Coronavirus prohibited them from allowing her to use the employee toilet.

There are the shoppers who verbally abuse the shop assistants who request them to observe Covid-19 hygiene protocols on touching objects, or remind them to please be sure to hand-sanitise.

By all accounts there have even been, God between us and all harm, some very embarrassing public adult tantrums much like the let-me-use-your-toilet-or-I’ll-pee-on-the-ground-outside-your-front-door lady.

Look, the guidance is there. It’s very simple. It’s very clear. Observe physical distancing. Wear a mask. Wash your hands.

But we’re not all in it together any more. Because, you see, it seems, just as we’re experiencing a major surge in Covid-19 cases, we have some people who just don’t like being told what to do. And their rights are paramount, so they are oblivious to the threat their behaviour poses to other people.

I hear on the grapevine that some staycationing Covidiots in their 30s and 40s complain that the mandatory hygiene protocols give a shop an “unwelcoming” ambiance. They claim that, by requesting them to observe the protocols, a conscientious shop-keeper is “trying to get them to leave the store.” Some get aggressive and flounce away, slamming the door behind them.

Business owners have been called idiots — by these Covidiots — for attempting to comply with government and NPHET regulations. Some Covidiots claim the killer virus is nothing but a conspiracy anyway and that those who fear it are plain stupid.

It’s not just the customers — there are plenty of stories about venues which are not taking it seriously either. There’s a busy, popular city pub which, I’m reliably told, is distributing well-stained, empty pizza boxes, so its customers can “pretend” to comply with the eat/drink regulation, while having their pints without having to eat anything.

The pub simply charges them for two drinks instead of one and lists a pizza and a drink on the receipt.

Then you have the people who will buy a sandwich and the pint — but sit on for the rest of the night drinking and exchanging droplets with all the other Covidiots.

We all saw the video of the Dublin barman who jumped up on the counter and started emptying drinks from the same bottle, not just into the mouths of customers, quite a number of whom did not appear to be wearing masks, but, incredibly, into the mouth of what I took to be a fellow employee behind the bar — who appeared to be wearing his mask under his chin.

This behaviour was appallingly irresponsible, not to say risky in terms of infection — but what we have to acknowledge now is the possibility that this barman was not just an appalling exception. This carelessness is a hallmark of the way quite a lot of people, in their 20s, 30s and possibly even their 40s, are behaving.

I was glad to see the Taoiseach refer to that Dublin bar in his press conference on Tuesday evening. However, to be fair, I didn’t see that barman tying any of those customers up with rope in order to forcibly empty his bottle into their mouths. From what I could see, they were lining up to get the drink.

We’ve had the crazy, chaotic, crowded house parties — far too much experience of this in Cork city this summer — so it’s about time the gardaí got the powers to break them up.

I saw a tweet from former Health Minister Simon Harris last Sunday. He said that often people were not keeping physical distance, and that we are allowing the number of close contacts we have to rise and rise. We can’t deny it. “This is not sustainable,” he warned. Yes, we were all tired, he said, but “we need to all get back on top of this. It’s up to us. We’ve come too far.”

It’s too easy to blame the government. There is a big issue with Virus-fatigue. There is also an issue about drift — yes, this situation is unprecedented but in recent weeks we seem to have been drifting into an ever-worse situation and while there were some complaints around some mixed messaging surrounding the new restrictions implemented this week, they are crucial and they require us to make careful choices.

Our health service as it is, is under-resourced and already struggling. Our ICU capacities are lower than they should be.

On top of that, our hospital and health personnel are exhausted. Many health workers contracted the virus and some of them died of it, because they were out there during the worst of it, doing their bit. And those people put 120% into doing their bit. Many of the nurses and doctors who looked after the Covid patients are burned out and exhausted. They can’t cope with another tsunami of seriously ill Covid patients.

There is enormous, callous negligence at work here among some younger adults who are not listening and who are putting those around them at risk. These people are refusing to ‘get’ it. They don’t listen. They can’t be bothered to hear the warnings. They think they’re immortal; they think they’re immune; they callously think this killer virus is “just” something that will only harm older people.

They’re ignoring the fact that it’s now rampaging through the under-40 age groups and don’t seem to realise that it’s something that could cause them – and their loved ones – huge problems if they contract it and if they infect others.

Today I looked at the summer flowers I planted with such hope back in March and April when all this was beginning and we were, you might say, all in it together. At the time I thought this Covid thing was something that would continue for six or eight weeks and that we’d beat it. Now that we’re looking into the mouth of September, the pots and boxes and baskets are starting to get a bit rattled-looking, much like ourselves. Because, where are we?

Two steps back after the big step forward and potentially heading for another lockdown.

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