Fintan O'Toole: The State has never got its head around the pandemic

Openness is so fundamental to us that we have failed to shut off the island from danger

Passengers at Dublin airport as the Cabinet met on Monday to discuss tightening travel restrictions. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Passengers at Dublin airport as the Cabinet met on Monday to discuss tightening travel restrictions. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

For thousands of years, governments trying to deal with plagues were overwhelmed in two ways. They didn’t have the practical systems to cope with disease and death on such a scale. But they were also overwhelmed conceptually. They couldn’t get their heads around what was happening. The same, alas, has been true of our Government and the pandemic.

For most of history, the conceptual problem was that people didn’t know what plagues were. The only way to understand them was as messages. The gods (or God) were using them to tell us something – specifically that we had been very bad and must mend our ways.

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