Ailin Quinlan: Covid rules are too soft... and spoiled Irish take advantage

The State can’t actually keep you safe from Covid if you choose not to listen. Only you can keep yourself safe. So says Ailin Quinlan
Ailin Quinlan: Covid rules are too soft... and spoiled Irish take advantage

TRAUMA: A nurse at CUH wrote about the chilling impact of Covid-19. “Covidiots should listen to that nurse,” says Áilín Quinlan

LET’S call a spade a spade here. We all know the government should have been tougher.

It should have punched down harder on Covid rule-breakers from the get-go; gardaí should have been empowered to raid and shut down house parties from March.

People should simply have been stopped from flying abroad for any but essential trips, with severe penalties for those who flouted the rules.

Motorists should have been routinely required to provide proof at garda checkpoints of where they resided and where they were going if it was outside the 5km, so that the police were not dependent on what lies they’re being fed.

The government should really have empowered the gardaí to be much tougher on and much nastier to all these people who continue to break the restrictions.

Alas, though, at the end of the day, the government can only achieve so much with extended lockdowns, business and school closures, curbs on travel, and this latest, somewhat half-baked attempt at imposing quarantines and clawing back visa-free access.

Because, the thing is, spade-a-spade-wise, the State, with all its rules and regulations and strictures, can’t actually keep you safe from Covid if you choose not to listen. Only you can keep yourself safe.

If you break the rules and ignore the guidelines, you immediately put yourself and others at risk and potentially adding to the load of an already over-stretched health service.

I happen to know somebody who barely survived this virus. Somebody who now considers herself lucky because she survived to recall how horrendously ill she became — so sick, in fact, that doctors told her at one point that she was quite literally fighting for her life.

This thing is very real. And people like her are ending up in a hospital bed fighting this virus for their very lives, day in, day out.

So, given all of that, why, then, would you contract out your personal safety by going on holidays/attending a removal/celebrating someone’s 60th birthday bash? You really want to take that chance?

Certainly, a government and its health service should do its utmost to protect its people. Certainly an Opposition should jump up and down and pick holes and complain about the government not doing enough for its people. But, at the end of the day, they can’t actually stand on your legs and force you to obey if you choose to treat the warnings as mere talk and optics.

Do you really believe your good health is not your own responsibility? Think about this for a minute. Are you one of the parents flocking to skate parks and playgrounds with the kids, allowing the offspring to mix freely with other children while you sit around sipping takeaway coffees and chatting?

Are you one of the holiday-home owners who routinely ignore the pleas of the government and health services to defy the travel restrictions and drive to the other side of the county because you feel entitled to a change of scenery?

It’s hard not to get irate at the monumental levels of selfishness and irresponsibility which drive such behaviour.

Are you, perhaps, the kind of traveller who infuriated so many Prime Time viewers during the week and led to uproar? Or indeed, one of those who made up almost 50% of arrivals coming into Dublin Airport last Wednesday from tourist hotspots?

We watched the RTÉ footage of those freshly-tanned Irish legs filing back into Arrivals; Irish people arriving home after their January sun-break. We also learned that among the passengers from abroad flying into Dublin Airport from Madrid was a group of Spanish students who had gone home for Christmas — and were now returning to Ireland to continue their studies, from a country which has had nearly three million cases of Covid and some 57,000 deaths.

Yes, they had been tested, RTÉ was told. But all the same, should they really have been allowed to walk straight back in here without question?

The best lesson of this entire shambles could be taught by simply closing our borders completely. Why not let our devoted sun-worshippers discover, as they arrive at foreign check-in desks complacently expecting to fly back into Ireland, that our borders have been suddenly closed? They should be left abroad to sort themselves out, instead of being allowed to all trot home, potentially bringing infection with them.

Was there, up to now, really a belief that people who have essentially gone abroad when they were advised not to and didn’t have to, would suddenly start obeying the rules and self-isolate when they get home?

Our government is too soft. Too cautious. Too slow. Too scared of making a mistake. 

The garda ‘Explain and Encourage’ routine is too soft. The Enforce bit shouldn’t be a last resort.

We Irish, as a people, with our abiding belief in our God-given entitlement to entertainment, are far too spoiled, selfish and self-indulgent for our own good. The stories are legion.

The young guy at the top of the queue leaving the cash register and handing his used mask to a friend further down the line. People complaining because the gardaí are raiding and closing shebeens. People arriving at birthday parties, removals and funerals. Day-trippers flocking to rural beauty spots in such numbers that locals won’t venture outside the door.

I heard a particularly unpleasant anecdote about a large funeral attended by many, many mourners.

Somebody tried to remonstrate with the family about the huge numbers in attendance, only to be told “it’s our funeral, we’ll do it the way we want to do it.”

I read a chilling piece by a nurse in Cork University Hospital. She wrote that the nursing community is on its knees. She wrote that many nurses are upset as they go into work with sheer dread of what lies ahead of them. She wrote that nurses are crying on the way home because a patient died on their own with nobody to hold their hand because the staff were simply too busy. She said very plainly and simply that the buck stops with you. Stay home.

What she didn’t say, but what I’ll say is: if you don’t, you deserve everything you get. If you’re mixing in the playground with other parents, travelling outside the 5km limit for no good reason, lying to gardaí about where you’re going as you head to your holiday home, booking short-term lets in rural holiday homes or jetting off to a sun holiday in the middle of a pandemic, careless of what you might bring back home with you, you are a Covidiot. You deserve everything you get.

You, my friends, are all potential Typhoid Marys and you should not be allowed to get away with it.

But then, maybe you haven’t gotten away with it. Maybe you and other members of your family have started getting the cough and the high temperature and the diarrhoea because you picked up the virus on your travels and passed it on once you got home.

Maybe you became infected at that removal you felt you had to be seen at, or that little shebeen that’s only a bit of fun with the lads, or that 60th birthday party you felt you had every right to attend, because, eh, you have your rights.

Good luck with that. Covid doesn’t worry about stepping on anyone’s toes. Covid doesn’t give a monkey’s about your rights. Listen to the nurse.

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