Ailin Quinlan: Entitlement and lack of respect undermining our Covid efforts

Ailin Quinlan tells us how she continues to be outraged at some people's behaviour  during major efforts to get Covid numbers down here
Ailin Quinlan: Entitlement and lack of respect undermining our Covid efforts

NOT IN IT TOGETHER: A garda at the protest in Dublin city centre last weekend.

SURE, they were only exercising their human and civil rights — weren’t they?

The unmasked couple, a man and a woman whom I would put at in their fifties, walked into the supermarket in front of me as I paused by the hand sanitiser to rub gel on my hands.

Neither of them stopped, I noticed. In fact, they walked right past the very clearly displayed and easily accessible plastic gel dispenser without giving it as much as a glance.

Irritated — why wouldn’t I be, given what we have all been through in the past year — I entered the shop behind them. I watched as the man proceeded to the takeaway coffee area. I watched as he roughly pulled at the stack of paper cups, knocking several on the floor before picking each of them up one by one and, in the process, possibly contaminating them with virus.

Next he pressed the hard plastic buttons on one of the machines to make himself a coffee, after which he pulled the plastic lever on the milk dispenser to add some milk.

Meanwhile, his companion had strolled over to the display of breads, scones and rolls, and began browsing the breakfast rolls, which were packaged in clear plastic bags. By browsing, I mean she picked up several bags, one by one, to examine more closely the rolls they contained —they were all the same — before replacing each on the pile.

Watching this pair potentially contaminating both an unknown number of surfaces and possibly passing on infection to God knows how many unfortunate people, I decided to forego my little treat of good takeaway coffee. Indefinitely.

I wondered exactly how long the Covid-19 virus would stay on the plastic coffee machine buttons and the plastic bags. I checked it on my phone. Recent research has assessed the survival of the virus on plastic as 72 hours.

When I looked up from my phone, I saws that the pair had now arrived together at the shop’s open chilled section where they were picking up different packaged products, handing them to each other, discussing them — and replacing them. I truly couldn’t watch any more, plus I was out of time, so I went to get my newspaper (which I carefully took from the middle of the pile, though I doubted these Covidiots were the type to look at, let alone buy, a newspaper) and went to pay.

I mentioned what I had seen to the masked shop assistant behind the plexiglass screen and advised her to remain alert about her own health. She groaned as she cleaned her hands with clear gel after the transaction. It was impossible to keep running after people reminding them to sanitise their hands before entering the shop, she said.

“Maybe we should have a sort of overhead tannoy announcement like they have at the entrance to CUH, reminding people to clean their hands,” she observed.

I pointed out that the bright yellow Covid-hygiene signs were everywhere. That there were warnings about contamination and pleas for hand hygiene were all over shop doors and windows, social media, the radio, the television and newspapers, and that everywhere you looked there were people wearing masks and rubbing gel on their hands.

How much reminding did some people need, I asked. She agreed.

Maybe this pair didn’t agree with the regulations I thought. Maybe if you asked them, they would say Covid-19 was nothing but a government/HSE/media/EU conspiracy to keep good people locked in their boxes, and that all this stuff about the overwhelmed hospitals and thousands of dead was nothing but more guff.

I doubted they were the kind to travel to Dublin city centre, as so many brave-hearts did last weekend, to abuse the gardaí as a demonstration of their dissatisfaction with the Covid-19 restrictions. But maybe they were exactly that kind. You can never fully know people.

Or maybe they just didn’t give a monkey’s about themselves or others. Maybe they were the type who would cheer on the behaviour of those third-level students, many of them unmasked, living it up at the chaotic mega-street parties in Castletroy during the week, chanting ‘Come on Eileen’ and setting off fireworks while they necked large quantities of alcohol and ignored garda demands to stop. Limerick currently has one of the highest incidences of Covid-19 in the country, and is it any wonder?

There’s growing concern about the spread of corononavirus in the city, which in turn has led to mass testing of students on the university campus, and warnings that, following the most recent shenanigans, the authorities are investigating the grounds on which to expel some of those involved in the party.

They have declared that they will take action with strong disciplinary measures against any student found in breach of public health guidelines. I wish them luck.

Most of all, I pity the local residents. What a nightmare to have to live with.

Gardaí had sent a large number of officers to the affected area in response to complaints and after videos began to circulate on social media after the parties kicked off around 6pm. They were apparently initially ignored, to the extent that they had to intervene shortly after 7pm.

Some two hours later, students were still being cleared from the area after what one garda described as a “sh**show”.

It appeared that although gardaí attempted to engage with the students, the young people failed to comply, demonstrating what was described as “continued and orchestrated non-compliance with public health regulations” as well as a failure to comply with directions from the gardaí.

And in the end, while 50 fixed payment notices were issued, only three people were arrested. Three?

RTÉ’s Drivetime programme, which sent a reporter to the area recently, showcased the completely unsafe behaviour and the entirely disrespectful and entitled attitude of some students in terms of both the health of other residents of the area and the risk to themselves of contracting Covid-19.

One of those interviewed indicated that he felt that, like, you know, it’s only fair that if you’re a student, you should get to enjoy student life, like (as in it was only fair whether or not it ends up making somebody else fatally ill).

There’s a real sense of entitlement and a lack of respect for both authority and for other people here. As a society, we are too soft by half on this carry-on.

Of course, if you crack down hard, you’ll always find the bleeding hearts who will insist that the government and the gardaí and anybody else they could think of should be sued because, sure, those poor young wans were only exercising their civil and human rights to have a bit of fun.

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