Government has failed to lead us on Covid

If ever there was an award for confusion, mixed messaging and diabolical communication, then this Government has won it hands down.

We are at a critical juncture in the fight against Covid-19. This disease has already left death, untold suffering, economic loss and devastation in its wake. And it’s not finished yet.

At the same time - and perhaps for the first time - we can see promising glimmers of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Vaccines are soon on the way and while they will never replace what’s lost or provide the ultimate cure, they will go a long way to make life really worth living for all of us again.

Yet, the Government insists on repeatedly making matters even more difficult by repeatedly reneging on its responsibility and its duty.

The Government’s duty is to lead; to care for and protect the citizens which it governs; to guide them out of darkness towards the light.

Instead, what do we continue to get? An endless conveyor belt of senior politicians - from the Taoiseach down - who insist on doing more harm than good.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly’s interview on RTÉ News this week was another example of why the most inherent risk now facing the Government is Stephen Donnelly himself.

His lack of clarity on what type of a Christmas we can expect to have this year is beyond astonishing.

On the one hand, he wants to side with NPHET which has proposed that we get down to 100 cases per day before Level 5 restrictions are reduced to Level 3, or possibly Level 2.

At the same time, Minister Donnelly stated that “if we don’t hit the number, it doesn’t mean we won’t go out of Level Five.”

It’s worth remembering that NPHET provide public health advice to the Government. The Government decides what to do with it and imposes or lifts any restrictions.

 The Government’s target with cases is anybody’s guess.

Stephen Donnelly has form on u-turns and confusion. This is the same minister who, last August, caused widespread confusion as he likened the risk of Covid-19 in schools to driving a car or jumping on a trampoline.

And there’s the latest fiasco regarding takeaway pints - another classic example of the Government’s unique ability to perform a u-turn on a u-turn.

On Monday, the Department of Health signalled plans to ban the sale of takeaway pints following social media concerns about people congregating and drinking in Dublin city centre at the weekend.

Within hours, this was replaced by a plan to regulate outdoor gatherings and issuing fines. Then, this proposal was scrapped by Cabinet when ministers looked for greater enforcement of existing laws on drinking alcohol in public - which happen to already include fines.

This Government has lost the dressing room a long time ago.

A Government sleepwalking from one disaster and crisis to the next is profoundly serious. We’ve every right to be worried.

But the answer is not apathy. As justifiable and understandable as it is to want to block our ears and turn our backs on what Government and public health officials have to say, now’s not the time to do it.

We must demand better - because we deserve better - from highly-paid politicians who were put in office to do a job. In the meantime, the Government must take stock of its abysmal performance and communications when it comes to Covid-19. It must do far better because if it continues to fail, the consequences are deadly. It’s literally life or death stuff.