Coronavirus – a time for concerted action

 

Sir, – Much of the discussion regarding the development of medical treatment for Covid-19 has taken place without reference to the political economy of pharmaceutical development. It therefore risks many ethical, as well as economic, shortcomings.

The EU Alliance for Responsible Medicines has written to EU leaders seeking that, for Covid-19, all “necessary medical tools are free of charge at the point of delivery, particularly for vulnerable populations”. Its letter continues: “With public health system resources already overstretched, economic sustainability should not be further imperilled by excessive prices of medicines and vaccines.”

Meanwhile, in the US, members of Congress have written to President Donald Trump seeking to ensure that any vaccine or treatment developed in America for Covid-19 “is accessible, available and affordable”, although this has not been enshrined in US legislation.

It is essential that these messages are not overlooked.

Calls for research on diagnostics, treatments and vaccine development, including in Ireland, must contain “affordability clauses” and restrictions to exclusive patents.

If not, many of the pharmaceutical companies that are leading the race to supply vaccines for Covid-19 will continue to charge exorbitantly high prices for their products. To treat this pandemic quickly and effectively, we must break with this failed market model now. – Yours, etc,

Dr KIERAN HARKIN,

Access to Medicines Ireland,

Comhlámh,

Parliament Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir,– It is disgusting that Simon Harris was coughed on in the street by two foolish and irresponsible idiots (News, March 25th).

Last Sunday morning while out walking locally, I endured a similarly unpleasant, albeit potentially less dangerous, experience when a group of obviously drunk young males drove past me at high speed hurling aimless abuse out of their open car window.

Such anti-social behaviour – whether from coughing middle-aged social media “pranksters” or inebriated, abusive louts – seems to be particularly discordant at this time of widespread fear and uncertainty, but also solidarity, in society.

In stark contrast, however, the reaction of most people to the current national crisis has been inspiring.

Earlier in the week, for instance, I was obliged to take an essential mid-morning trip into Dublin city centre.

I found eerily deserted streets. But what struck me most was the remarkable good humour and politeness of all the service providers and shop staff I encountered.

This included an extraordinary degree of conscientious adherence by virtually everyone to physical distancing guidelines.

When the pandemic is over, I hope we remember that many of the “heroes” of the crisis were ordinary people who are usually taken for granted by society – unsung workers like supermarket checkout staff, shelf stackers, bus drivers and shop security men and women. – Yours, etc,

JOE McCARTHY,

Arbour Hill,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – The foggy morning here in Bray, Co Wicklow, is reminiscent of the peculiar fog that has settled on our world. Existence is surreal. Our once seemingly unbreachable foundations of society just vanish as if they were never really there. Each morning we awake to a new dream in a new fleeting world where certainty no longer exists.

When the mist finally clears, I look forward to reading of the days we’re living through today. It will be a fascinating story. On one hand, this experience is causing terrible anxiety, illness and loss of life that will have a devastating impact on so many.

It will also provide the potential to transform the world for the better in ways that could never have happened before.

Pollution is disappearing, the world is embracing new ideas and technology at an exponential rate and people are united.

Fighting a common foe has brought the world together in a way that would have seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago. This is the first truly global pandemic in the sense that as it spreads around the planet, we can witness, in real time, the impact on each country and society and not just on those directly around us. This can only be a force for good.

We crave normality and business as usual but perhaps we’ll emerge from this fog as a generation more united, focused and resolute than any other to make the changes needed to realise the future potential of humankind. I hope so. Maybe governments and businesses will realise that nothing is permanent. Citizens will see that we’re not invincible. Our new appreciation of the ephemeral nature of everything we hold dear will lead to a new enlightenment. Nothing in the future is certain except that we’re all together. This has been, perhaps, the foe we needed; an equal opportunities disruptor.

Even now, as I glance out my window, I can see that the fog will soon clear. It’s going to be a beautiful day. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN KITSON.

Bray,

Co Wicklow.