Trevor Laffan: I’m proud of my country’s virus efforts, so let’s hang in there

I have been impressed with the way our people have handled the pandemic, so says Trevor Laffan in his weekly column
Trevor Laffan: I’m proud of my country’s virus efforts, so let’s hang in there

FRONTLINE: Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, and Health Minister Simon Harris have been impressive, says Trevor Laffan

IT feels like an eternity since the Government introduced us to the world of lockdown.

Little did we think it would be still going on at this stage, and that news of any easing of the restrictions would be like a Lotto win. Any reprieve would be welcome now.

I’m not complaining either though, because when I look around and see how some countries are dealing with the Coronavirus, I’m glad I’m here and not somewhere else. And I nearly wasn’t.

I was due to fly to Cyprus on March 14, but I checked with the Department of Foreign Affairs a few hours before my plane was due to take off and their advice was to sit tight.

They said the situation was changing by the hour and while I would definitely be able to leave, they couldn’t say when I might return.

As I risked going from the frying pan into the fire, I took their advice and put my passport away again. As it turned out, they were spot on, and that’s not the only thing they’ve got right.

I don’t have any political affiliations and I regularly have a pop at politicians. I have been critical of the HSE too in the past, but that aside, I have been impressed with the way our people have handled the pandemic.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has provided a calm reassurance and Health Minister Simon Harris has put his shoulder to the wheel and been working hard. I take my hat off to these guys. They seem to have a handle on it in so far as that’s possible.

There are people pointing to mistakes they have made in the past and there is justification for some of that, but I’m talking about their performance during this pandemic solely. We have lost friends and loved ones and that’s tragic, but it could have been so much worse.

Just look across the Atlantic. The leadership from the White House is anything but clear or assured.

President Donald Trump is a divisive character at the best of times and large crowds in some states have taken to the streets, demanding that restrictions be lifted. The same restrictions that were put in place for their benefit and to keep them alive.

Closer to home, the UK seems to have been a bit slow getting out of the traps too. The government there is coming in for a lot of stick for, reportedly, initially going with the herd immunity plan.

So, I’m more positive about how we’re doing here and I’m proud of the way the Irish public has responded to the lockdown.

The vast majority have answered the call for isolation, social distancing and cocooning, and they’ve done it with the good humour and tolerance we’re noted for. There have been some lapses, but by and large, people have acted responsibly.

In situations like this, common sense is an extremely useful tool to have in the bag and, fortunately for us, it’s a quality the Irish have in spades. We just need to keep the flag flying for another bit.

While most of us are complying with the recommendations, some are struggling. All we’ve been asked to do since this Coronavirus came to visit, is to stay at home and watch TV, but a minority are struggling with it.

Easter weekend was tricky. The weather was good and some with second homes at the seaside wanted to go there, but the locals had other ideas and made their feelings known. Gardaí blocked the M50 but a few went anyway. It created additional stress we can do without.

The current climate is difficult enough without us turning on each other. We’ve done well so far but we need to stick with the programme.

The plan was to flatten the curve and ease the flow of patients into our hospitals so staff would be better equipped to deal with the rush when it came. The best way to achieve that we were told, was to keep apart. It worked.

We have paid a significant price and we’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re getting there.

Some have had it tougher than others. We’ve heard heart breaking stories of loved ones dying alone, while family members and friends were unable to spend their final moments with them or attend the funerals. That will leave its mark on us forever.

Our health care workers have been playing a stormer too, fighting this illness on the frontline every day. Not only the medical staff but the cleaners, porters and maintenance staff have all been risking their health. That should never be forgotten. They deserve our respect and if we have to put up with a little inconvenience to help them, then so be it.

There has been some discussion around allowing the pubs and restaurants to open while observing current restrictions — arranging the seating in such a way as to keep the required distance between customers.

Anything that gets us out for a pint again is worth consideration, but we need to be sensible. It would be difficult for a publican to police social distancing in those circumstances.

Apart from that, it may not even be practical from a financial perspective for a publican to open his doors if his income is going to be cut by 50% before he even pulls a pint.

Toilet facilities could be a problem too as many of these are no bigger than old phone boxes.

Enforcing the rules of social distancing might be easy to do with compliant customers, but telling the guy who is three sheets to the wind to stop slobbering in your ear would definitely be challenging.

We still have a way to go, so just hang in there.

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