THAT Covid-19 restrictions have had to be ramped up to the top Level 5 is a mess of our own making as a minority of people took too many liberties when the economy and society in general opened up for the summer months. This is very unfair on all the people who did their best to abide by the public health guidelines, including the wearing of masks and other face coverings, and observing adequate social distancing.
However, the big problem that led to the incidence of Covid-19 cases increasing exponentially in the past two months was too much socialising between households. This was taken to an extreme by house parties, especially among younger people, and more than two-thirds of all the new cases of the virus during the summer months were people under 45.
Of course, the situation was not helped by the shocking example shown in August by prominent public figures who should have known better than to attend the Oireachtas Golf Society’s 50th anniversary dinner at the Station House Hotel in Clifden, Co Galway, which had 81 guests, in flagrant contravention of restrictions prevailing at the time. This led to some high-profile resignations, but they were too little too late as the damage was already done by their bad behaviour.
The partying got even more intense in the early autumn while the pubs were still closed as first communions and confirmations were celebrated in households and then there was the partying associated with hurling and football championship victories, which – rightly – prompted the GAA to pull the plug on the club scene.
It is nice to see an exception being made to the Level 5 rules so that the inter-county championships across the men’s and women’s Gaelic games can be played behind closed doors over the coming two months, in order to provide some televised diversion for sports fans during the harsher restrictions, but it will be a huge ask for everyone to avoid Covid infection. As Cork senior football manager Ronan McCarthy told The Southern Star in an interview last week, this year’s championships are ‘in the lap of the gods.’
Even though county players and their entourages operate at a level akin to being semi-professionals, they are slightly more susceptible to the virus as they do not have quite the same protections that fully professional sportspeople such as soccer and rugby players have. GAA players are going in to their day jobs and home to their families, and even though they are offered the best of care and precautions, it will be difficult – with all the travelling involved – to avoid coming into contact with the virus.
Before the championships start, however, there is quite a division of opinion within GAA circles as to whether they should go ahead in the first instance. The Gaelic Players Association expressed justified reservations about their players participating in the championships when restrictions are at Level 5.
While sport provides some welcome escapism for many, the harsh reality of restrictions as the weather starts to turn more wintry is beginning to dawn on people. From this weekend onwards, the nights are getting longer and there will be less daylight hours for people to engage in outdoor exercise, which is vital for people’s health and welfare, both mentally and physically.
Then, there are the older people amongst us, some of whom were reluctant to go out and about even when they could, as they were is dread of contracting the virus. No doubt, the community solidarity that was shown during the lockdown period last Spring will kick back in again now.
Coming in to the winter it is important to check – in a non-intrusive manner – that older neighbours have enough supplies in to tide them over, especially food, medicines and fuel for heating. Some of their homes probably won’t have the same standards of insulation as newer ones and, as older people tend to feel the cold more, they use a lot more fuel.
The population as a whole has to shoulder the blame for our current restrictive situation as the country tries to suppress wave two of the virus. Last time, we missed out on St Patrick’s Day and Easter celebrations; maybe this time it will be suppressed sufficiently by early December to let us enjoy Christmas – certainly shops could do with the business, especially this year, as the festive season can account for up to a third of annual turnover for many of them.
However, the real danger is that people will lose the run of themselves again with irresponsible Christmas and new year partying and land us back in the shackles of restrictions for a third wave of the virus next spring. We certainly are caught between a rock and a hard place.