What we need now: A primer in an all-consuming and fast-moving crisis

TV review: Miriam O’Callaghan’s Prime Time is far more effective than her Late Late Show

Five days after making history as the first woman to host an entire episode of the Late Late Show Miriam O'Callaghan is back in the Prime Time hot-seat (RTÉ One, Tuesday, 9.35pm). Inevitably the subject at hand is coronavirus. And without such Late Late accoutrements as rows of empty seats and pointless recycled footage of the Garda Band marching around looking miserable (as featured last Friday) the results are far more effective.

It's a bit of a Covid-19 pick-and mix, which might sound glib but is actually what we all need now. The story is so all-consuming and fast-moving it helps to slow down slightly and focus on specific aspects. So the challenges faced by medical staff is explored, as Richard Downes visits the RCSI Smurfit Building at Beaumont Hospital (when did Irish hospitals start having such complicated names?).

One surprise, though, is that infections are typically acquired away from hospital, often while socialising

“There is room for sleeping and getting up then in the morning and going back into work. Everything else, including family, takes a back seat,” says intensive care consultant Gerard Curley. “When I go home at night, my children say: ‘are you clean ... have you got that virus?’ adds surgeon Arnold Hill.

This isn’t just about human interest however. Healthcare workers account for one in four confirmed coronavirus cases in Ireland – a higher figure than in other countries. Why is this?

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The (slightly obvious) answer is that medical staff are tested more rigorously than the general population. One surprise, though, is that infections are typically acquired away from hospital, often while socialising.

It's devastating and an important reminder, amid a rising death-toll, that coronavirus isn't about statistics

“Some of the clusters were related to large social gatherings,” says infectious diseases consultant Eoghan de Barra. It is a reminder of how confounding a foe coronavirus is and how the battle against it frequently requires counterintuitive leaps of logic.

If this is Prime Time speaking to the head, what follows strikes at the heart. Miriam Allen articulates her fears for her elderly parents, both with dementia and at a nursing home. Her voice catches as she explains that, in the event of one or both become terminally ill with coronavirus, she would not have a chance to say goodbye.

It’s devastating and an important reminder, amid a rising death-toll, that coronavirus isn’t about statistics. It is about individuals taken before their time and families left behind.

With the dreaded “surge” of critical cases apparently on the way, we will, in the weeks to come, need to remember that more than ever.