The Irish Times view on Covid-19: Entering a new phase

Response involves judgments that are reactive and more difficult to explain publicly

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn leaving the Dáil on Wednesday after addressing a Special Oireachtas Committee on the Covid-19 Response. Photograph: Alan Betson

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn leaving the Dáil on Wednesday after addressing a Special Oireachtas Committee on the Covid-19 Response. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

There is a danger that the golf society fiasco may distract from what must be our central ongoing preoccupation: combating the spread of Covid-19 in light of what Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly warns is another potential lockdown, and what acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn says will be a “very difficult period ahead”. One when we will have to accept the idea that the virus may be around for far longer than we had expectecd.

Wednesday’s meeting of the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 heard Health Service Executive chief executive Paul Reid’s sober assessment of the August uptick: “I think the reality is that what we are seeing in the country right now is probably what we are going to be living with for the future with this virus.

“We are going to see significant peaks and, we hope, significant troughs very soon and those changes may not always be national. They could be regional and, in some cases, local. That is the new reality for us in terms of living with this virus … Therefore, our plans are now not so much around a second surge and a mass scaling up or scaling down. The focus now is around agility, how we adapt, scale up and scale down…”

Glynn appealed for a new appreciation of the challenges. “We must live with this virus in a very new way,” he said, “and this requires a carefully balanced approach. The health services need a functioning economy and society. Shutting down the economy and society has implications for our health services.”

He argued cogently that it is not possible to pursue a strategy to eliminate Covid-19 completely and that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) strategy was to “keep the cases as low as possible” and to protect education, vulnerable people and healthcare.

Finding the right balance involves judgments that are no longer black and white, but grey, reactive, and more difficult to justify and explain publicly. Retaining public buy-in is more important than ever. Recents events aside, we are in this together and must act accordingly.

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