Ailin Quinlan: Yes, there are lots of heroes out there, but some idiots too

People still don't seem to be getting the message about social distancing and self-isolation, so says Ailin Quinlan in her weekly column
Ailin Quinlan: Yes, there are lots of heroes out there, but some idiots too

PAY HEED: Shops that remain open have introduced measures to protect the health of staff and customers. Picture: Larry Cummins

I COULDN’T tell whether the guy had Covid-19 or a bad cold. But something was definitely rotten in the State of Denmark.

I’d parked at the side of the road, and was just about to get out of the car to go to the nearby shop when the man appeared outside the front door of his apartment on the other side of the road.

The apartment which, I should say, was at the top of some steps right above a busy pavement. The man began to sneeze and cough and splutter.

And, as I watched in horror, my hand frozen on the inside handle of the driver’s door, he coughed with a wide-open mouth right over the street where a number of people were walking.

He then wiped his nose and mouth with his hand and — wait for it —shook off the mucus he’d collected down onto the pavement.

I nearly got sick.

Needless to say, I wasn’t taking any chances.

I didn’t get out of the car.

I started up the engine and drove into the car park of the shop, just a few metres away.

The shop, had erected the by-now drearily familiar yellow Covid-19 posters warning about the need for people to keep social distance.

Management had carefully drawn lines on the floor beside the checkouts and installed plastic strips for shoppers to stand behind while they paid for their groceries, some of whom had unwittingly walked through Mr Covid-19s toxic droplet cloud and straight into the shop.

Yeah, it’s time for the government to introduce measures allowing people like this idiot to be detained if they have Covid-19 and refuse to self-isolate.

It has come not a moment too soon.

Because there are lots of heroes out there; lots of people doing amazing work in this country’s hour of need, and yes, as the Taoiseach said, superheroes don’t necessarily wear cloaks.

That’s because crises like this often brings out the good in people - for example, the restaurants which are offering free dinners to be delivered to elderly and vulnerable customers and the local communities which have organised networks of people to collect shopping, medicines fuel and other essentials, for people in need.

So yes, lots of solidarity, and plenty of justifiable self-praise.

But there are others; selfish clods like this man, who stood there spitting and coughing all over the heads of unwitting passers-by walking just below him.

The kind of people for whom any consideration of the impact of their actions on others is at best, laughable, at worst the remotest thing from their minds.

Reports of people getting antsy in the States are coming in - there have been pavement shouting matches and online sniping between the two sides of the crisis; those who have committed to strict compliance with the call by public health officials to people to stay at home and prevent the spread of the virus, and those who seem determined to continue life as normal.

Which means there are those who are taking great care to avoid the crowds - and those who are utterly nonchalant about it all, standing around gossiping in groups, eating out in restaurants and cramming into bars despite the fact that the authorities have urged Americans to halt most social activities for 15 days and not gather in groups of more than 10. One woman complained about how teenagers were gathering in the community and possibly spreading the virus to their friends.

The question is, how long before people get nasty here? As the curve of infection slides upwards and the country increasingly shuts down, the likes of Tony Holohan, the Taoiseach, Regina Doherty, Pascal Donoghue, Simon Harris and Simon Coveney have come across as assured, responsible and in charge of the situation.

Those shops which are remaining open have introduced measures to protect the health of staff and customers -a butcher shop in Skibbereen has taken out advertisements advising customers to phone in their orders and pay by credit card and when they call to collect, to stay in their car as the butcher will hand the purchase out to the vehicle.

The Covid-19 pandemic payments were rolled out quickly - and, as long as the whole thxxing doesn’t crash given the massive level of demand, will provide a basic income to those who have lost their jobs or have seen their self-employed income dwindle into nothing.

It’s good to see how local residents groups appear to have mobilised to look after elderly neighbours and the offers from the hospitality industry to provide free food to emergency workers and the elderly.

During the week I tried to convince the self-effacing owner of a small distillery to let me write a piece about how he was making and donating alcohol-based hand sanitisers to a hospital, but he wanted to stay anonymous.

What he was doing was small, he said, and he didn’t want to be making a fuss about it.

So yes this solidarity is a defence against the virus.

However, we’re still only a few weeks into this, and things have not reached their worst.

The question is, as time plods by and the disruptions continue - probably for a number of months if we’re going to be realistic about it- will the solidarity and feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ continue?

According to the gardaí, 999 calls are down, and the streets seem quiet.

But for how long?

And what about those trapped in a home with a violent, abusive spouse for example? Domestic violence has no curfew.

Let’s not get too complacent just yet.

More in this section

Sponsored Content