THE ‘golden date’ of October 22nd is now upon us, and the government this week finally revealed the plans for the next few months, regarding the easing of certain restrictions.
While the increase in positive Covid cases in recent weeks meant the total relaxation of rules was probably never going to be possible in the short-term, the one surprise was the timeline announced by the government on Tuesday.
The new rules would be in place until next Spring, we were told – giving us the longest timespan yet for a change in restrictions.
We can assume this is not for stability purposes, but most likely to protect our health service. We have been told that this winter is likely to bring with it more instances of other viral infections than winter 2020, given we are all mixing more this year.
And we will be moving about even more freely from this weekend on. And, of course, our hospitals are already under severe pressure, with staff shortages, staff on sick leave and increasingly busy emergency departments creaking under the inevitable winter strain.
When it comes to this week’s revised reopening plan, a cursory glance would suggest there is actually little change in the original plan as envisaged for an October 22nd re-opening.
At Tuesday’s announcement, the government said that the remaining aspects of the hospitality, entertainment and night-time economy sector can reopen as planned, but only with the full range of protective measures in place and the ‘wide and robust implementation’ of Covid certs.
But, as many media observers pointed out in recent days, there hasn’t always been ‘robust’ checking of Covid certs at hospitality venues.
While some bars and restaurants adhered strictly to the guidelines, scanning certs and taking phone numbers methodically before allowing anyone enter their premises, others were more lax. Some allowed patrons to enter and be seated before checking details, and another, albeit relatively small cohort, didn’t perform any checks whatsoever.
Of course, those entering such premises knew they were doing so at their own risk and it was certainly a risk, if nobody in their presence was being vetted for their Covid status.
The past month has seen a steady increase in cases of the virus and while a massive majority of adults are vaccinated, the quick spread of the virus means it was always going to be able to ‘find’ our most vulnerable citizens.
And the slow but steady rise in the numbers in hospital and subsequently ICU has meant that we still have to be cautious, lest our health service become overwhelmed.
It seems, therefore, that the government’s approach now is to allow society to re-open, but to give us a gentle reminder to remain ever-cautious by retaining some of the guidelines regarding mask-wearing, Covid certs and distancing.
They are still urging the majority of employees to work from home where possible, and are suggesting that if any member of the public finds themselves in a risky situation, they should vote with their feet.
All things considered, it seems to be a fairly reasonable balance to strike between keeping the economy ticking over and keeping our hospitals functioning. The rest is up to us.
A well-earned break
WITH many schools reporting several cases of Covid in their ranks, this week’s mid-term break cannot come too soon for many teachers, students and parents.
It’s been a really tough 19 months for our young people, but this year they battled all the elements to get through the first term of yet another Covid-era school year.
The initial fears that the re-opening of schools would be short-lived never materialised. Social distancing, an excellent adherence to classroom mask-wearing and the ability to brave often cold environments, has shown our young people to be as resilient as ever.
They now have a week to relax, re-group and recalibrate, before another tough term comes around. Let’s hope they all get to enjoy it.