We must comply with new restrictions

WE are all, understandably, in shock for the life that has been taken from us.

With little enough notice and with no blameworthiness on our part, the coronavirus has invaded our lives and turned them upside down.

Tragedies are unfolding in front of our eyes. Many older people, in particular, will pay a very heavy price and their relatives will suffer silent torments of bereavement in the weeks, months and years to come.

In Italy, thousands of older people have already been killed by the virus and the same has happened in Spain. It’s like a generational genocide which will result in a loss that simply cannot be quantified in human terms.

Our duty now is to prevent the same tragedies from occurring here.

That’s why the lockdown, until at least Easter Sunday, must be observed to the fullest extent possible. And, frankly, it is unlikely that restrictions will, or can, be relaxed even then.

We could be engaged in a running battle with this deadly virus for weeks and months to come and we should prepare ourselves for such a long, drawn-out conflict to save lives.

Tragically, this country was entirely unprepared to deal with a pandemic such as Covid-19. Our healthcare system lacked the firepower, foresight, planning and contingencies to handle this or a similar catastrophic event.

There is no doubt, whatsoever, that after this nightmare passes, there will be a reckoning for those in our political leadership who failed to provide for this terrible eventuality, despite repeated warnings from people such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. (Check out Bill Gates’ speech on Ted Talks in 2015 on the internet).

In the meantime, there’s a war to be fought.

And, it should be acknowledged, that our healthcare experts and the varied ranks of professionals and ancillary personnel have, within the constraints they faced, acted with speed, efficiency and extraordinary care and sense of duty as this crisis developed.

The decision to move ‘normal’ patients out of University Hospital Kerry and transfer them to the Tralee Bon Secours hospital - and thereby free up UHK for those who contract the virus and need hospital care - signals a commendable determination on the part of healthcare decision-makers to prepare for the surge that is expected in the next few weeks.

The government too - despite their caretaker status - have behaved with praiseworthy calm and decisiveness, all things considered. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been exemplary, all the more so when compared to the stumbling buffoonery initially of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and, particularly, US President Donald Trump.

This is a time for calm, in the calm before the storm.

Those of us not engaged in healthcare should simply carry on in full compliance with the restrictions now in force. There is growing evidence that, because the vast majority of us are observing these restrictions on our everyday freedoms, the numbers being infected by the virus is lower than it would otherwise be.

This means fewer people are in need of hospital care - and most important of all, fewer people are dying and will die in the future as the hospitals are better able to cope.

Many parts of China were two months or more in lockdown. Those restrictions are now being eased on a gradual basis and it remains to be seen if the number of infections begins to rise again as normal life returns.

Irrespective of whether the numbers of people infected in China increase once more, or not, or whether restrictions there need to be reintroduced, the lockdown here at home is entirely justified in order to save the lives of members of own families, friends and neighbours. Maybe, even, our own lives.

That’s the only thing we must focus on. That’s the only thing by which we can judge ourselves when all this is done and dusted.

We are being asked to sacrifice many of our natural freedoms as human beings so that others will be able to live. Put like that, it’s not too much to expect of us. And, these curtailments will not last forever - that same cannot be said of bereavement.