WITH the June bank holiday finally upon us – it was very late this year – it has coincided with the reopening of many long-awaited tourism businesses after an extended Covid-induced lockdown. This can only mean one thing – summer is finally here!
But with it comes a responsibility to ensure that everyone stays safe this summer.
Due to the hugely untimely hacking of the HSE’s IT systems, the last official figures for vaccinations in this country were published on May 11th, when we were told that almost 2m doses of various vaccines had been administrated. And while we can be confident many more thousands have been administered since, we must remember that the vast majority of those doses are still the first of a two-jab dose.
This means an awful lot of people are still not fully protected, not even allowing for the several million who have had no vaccine at all to date. And the one cohort of our almost-5m population that have had no vaccines to date, are the under 40s, apart from vulnerable members of that age group.
Judging by the scenes from the past weekend in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and no doubt most towns and cities in Ireland, the majority of the people taking to the streets in their hundreds are that very generation.
There is no doubt that the youngest members of our society have suffered the most mental anguish through this pandemic. At the very time of their lives when they would normally be encouraged to go out into the world, to make new friends, travel, couple up and enjoy all the world has to offer, they have been stifled by the constraints of this horrible virus.
And while the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have been at pains to predict an ‘outdoor summer’ for us all, it is still hard to justify some of the behaviour of last weekend – no social distancing, no mask-wearing, and pretty boisterous carry-on overall, in some quarters. As another holiday weekend is with us, we can only hope those scenes are not repeated.
To borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, there are too many ‘unknown unknowns’ about this virus yet, and especially about the various different strains which are coming at us hot and fast these days. We also don’t know enough about the efficacy of the vaccines against new strains, or how long the protection offered by the vaccines will last.
And while our most vulnerable citizens are, indeed, more protected than before, we still don’t know how another wave of infection, similar to last January’s, might affect a health service which is now reduced to pen and paper since the recent IT attack.
In the meantime, we still need to protect ourselves as much as possible. That means social distancing, mask-wearing, and not gathering in large boisterous crowds like it’s all over. Because, to repeat another over-used phrase, yes, we are getting there. But we’re not there yet.