Mindless mixing could send us all back to lockdown

In her weekly column Ailin Quinlan says  we need to listen to NPHET who have warned that if social mixing goes too far, it could lead to between 1,000 and 7,000 cases of Covid and a fourth wave
Mindless mixing could send us all back to lockdown

WARNING SIGN: If people abuse the slow lifting of restrictions, we risk another wave and another lockdown, warns Áilín Quinlan

IT was the photograph of that white stretch limousine in front of the Penneys shop in Wilton that did it.

Part of me wanted to laugh. Part of me wanted to celebrate. Another part of me went white with fury.

We’re all half-crazed from the monotony of life in lockdown, particularly those of us who fully complied with the restrictions. We’re itching to shake off the shackles.

We’re mad for road, mad for a haircut and mad to buy new clothes that we can actually try on first. We can’t wait for the day when we can meet friends indoors without a mask. We’re fed up of constantly remembering not to hug people or shake hands with anybody, and of the rush to cover ourselves in sanitising gel if we inadvertently touch something.

I get it. I do. Part of me was delighted by the sight of that limo. Go, girls, shrieked that part; two fingers to Covid and fair dues to you, we’re been through the wars! Why the hell not — we deserve it!

The infuriated part of me howled; was this, despite all of Tony Holohan’s warnings about treading carefully, the birth of another wave of sheer unalloyed public silliness?

The kind of silliness, in other words, that we had last Christmas when it seemed half the country queued up outside shops from the early hours of the first morning of relaxed restrictions, then ran around like crazy, mixing and matching and drinking inside and having Christmas Day parties and get-togethers of every conceivable kind, while the virus ran roughshod over the lot of us?

The thing is, we’re not actually there yet. We’re as yet only glimpsing what is in reality only a weak ray of light still quite far off at the end the Covid tunnel.

Yet it looks like we’re starting to run before we’re ready to walk.

Less than a fortnight ago, Dr Holohan declared that people were gradually pushing the boundaries of public health measures and that compliance was at its lowest level since last summer — and he worried, there’d been a particularly steep fall in recent weeks.

Ah leave it off, would you, Tony.

Can’t stick any more of this.

Glass half-empty and all of that.

We’re bored to death of it and of you.

Would you ever get over yourself?

Oh, but have we so quickly forgotten the 5,000 dead, the devastated families, the over-run hospital wards, the reports of health-care staff dying and nurses crying on their way in to work, the unforgettable thought of infected people dying ill and alone with no loved ones by their side? Have we forgotten the reports coming out about the debilitating effects of Long Covid?

Have we forgotten the throat-tightening debt that’s now looming over this State as a result of the pandemic, or the gigantic bills that will come due for all those billions paid out in PUP payments and business supports and the other huge, miscellaneous costs of the Covid pandemic?

The government can’t and won’t keep people on PUP indefinitely. The money isn’t there. It can’t keep streaming out of the exchequer forever. Lots of people still haven’t been vaccinated; including many who are designated as at high risk from the virus. We can’t afford another lockdown.

Please, let’s not stampede into mad bouts of shopping and old patterns of up-close sociability. 

Let’s not forget that ahead of the reopening, the government was warned that if social contacts increased too much before the vaccines took full effect, we could be in for an horrendous fourth wave of Covid-19 infections — which, by the way, from both an economic and a mental health standpoint, we simply cannot afford.

The government has insisted that if people comply with the gradual re-opening, then the reopening constitutes a low to moderate risk — but it’s also nervous enough to warn that at the same time it will stamp on the brakes if things go out of control again.

Yet already there’ve been reports from gardaí of significant anti-social attitudes, carelessness and incredible silliness; of parents knowingly dropping teenagers carrying alcohol into Cork city centre over the last few weekends.

Hundreds of teenagers and young adults gathered on the corner of Grand Parade and South Mall, last weekend creating scenes of drunkenness and minor outbreaks of violence.

They’ve been doing it for a while now according to the gardaí, who say they have evidence that this has been going on over a number of weekends resulting in anti-social behaviour and assaults.

What kind of stupidity is this? What kind of parents do this? Are they parents who don’t want to be parents? Are they parents who don’t want to be unpopular with their kids? Are they parents who can’t or won’t say ‘no’?

Or are they parents who want an easy life and justify this behaviour by saying: “Well, they’ll do it anyway and at least this way we know where they are?”

It’s the kind of anti-social behaviour that as a society we have to stop — and I’m talking about the parents as well as the teenagers.

Nphet said recently that that if social mixing goes too far, it could lead to between 1,000 and 7,000 cases a day, and, worst-case scenario, 10,000 admissions to hospital. Sticking to public health advice, on the other hand, would allow vaccines to build up, thus avoiding another big surge this summer.

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly said he’d be nervous getting out of bed every single morning over May.

I’d say he’s right to be nervous.

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