St. Patrick’s Day and looking in the Covid rear view mirror

So, the ISAG (Independent Scientific Advocacy Group) last December were advocating for an approach (mostly known as Zero Covid), that they said would have us out of lockdown and enjoying some return to freedom on St. Patrick’s Day.

They were talking about a similar approach to how New Zealand had dealt with Covid, whereby we could potentially be enjoying a mask free life in our country, meeting friends, eating in restaurants, drinking in pubs, celebrating our special national day and most importantly getting “Back to Normal”.

I myself was a big advocate for the approach they were taking, as I believed it made total sense and was the only way for us to get out of our grave situation with minimum loss of life, health, jobs, damage to the economy and mental health.

I went as far as blogging about it, tweeting about it and even giving their team some pro-bono strategic guidance about their communications – we even did some design work to help simplify their messaging. I am not involved now, but I do support what they are doing.

Note: I was quiet surprised at the abuse I took in some quarters for supporting that approach and was even targeted by the “brilliant” Gript crew (…very strange). The “we are all in this together” horse bolted in April 2020 and still hasn’t come back!

On one hand we can now throw our eyes up to heaven and say the ISAG crew were talking rubbish and isn’t where we are right now proof that they were totally wrong

OR ..we can now look back and say they were spot on all along, and if only we had done what they said then, we would be in a pub with a creamy pint of Murphy’s toasting our national day and the end to the hardship we have all endured at varying levels.

So…were they right or were they wrong?

Let’s take a look..

What they were advocating for was:

  • An aggressive suppression of the virus by going into a sharp, decisive lockdown
  • Quarantining all visitors to the country for two weeks to ensure those entering were not introducing even more Covid and possible new variants
  • Some cooperation with Northern Ireland (who were in a worse mess at the time) about people moving between jurisdictions
  • An effective contact tracing regime to focus in on any cases that happen
  • A sensible opening up of the country on a county by county basis

While all of this initial effort seemed very extreme, a sacrifice by the population for two months or so could have us in a much better, enjoyable place for 2021 while we all waited for vaccines.

Initially many of the usual suspects argued that this “Zero Covid” crew were a bit nuts and what was being suggested just wasn’t possible here – as I said I took a small amount of that abuse for my small part in advocating for the approach.

When we look at what has happened since then until this St. Patrick’s Day (our supposed “freedom” day):

  • We came out of the October/November lockdown when there were still too many cases in the community (we stupidly allowed schools to stay open despite outbreaks)
  • We never controlled international travel or the border with the North
  • Christmas shopping and entertaining kicked in
  • The UK variant came to Ireland with all of the thousands of people returning home for Christmas and….

BOOM !!!

We had an explosion of Covid with an incredible amount of cases and the inevitable deaths that followed.

Suddenly that aggressive and inevitable lockdown was needed and there was no issue with the general public, we knew it was necessary and with that more and more people were seeing the sense that the ISAG crew were advocating for, except instead of a “hill” of Covid cases in the community that we needed to suppress it was suddenly a colossal “mountain”.

OK, we could still do what the ISAG were suggesting, but the scale of the problem meant the St. Patrick’s Day target was now unrealistic, but instead a few weeks later if we did the right thing.

What did we actually do?

  • We took the tough lockdown on the chin, including home schooling (sensible and necessary) – the only exception is that the lockdown period needed to be longer (how long will it be?)
  • And…a token effort to restrict “unnecessary” travel (as we know there are still thousands travelling each week unnecessarily)
  • And….despite the talk about hotel quarantining we still haven’t managed to put an arrangement in place
  • And….schools will return and the community spread will kick off again
  • And….we are stumbling through a vaccination programme (my 85 year old mum will receive her 2nd vaccination next Saturday , my 47 year old brother in New Jersey received his two weeks ago!)

The most significant problem since December is that the flights kept coming with all sorts of visitors from everywhere including new Covid variants from Brazil and other places.

A simple question may be asked: how bloody stupid are we in this country?

Basically, we can’t go beyond 5kms in Ireland, but you can go to Lanzarote!

As far back as last summer Ireland has been “so good” at putting restrictions on it’s citizens, but for some stupid reasons that I will never fathom we have to leave the back door open, which leaves us on this St. Patrick’s Day, not free but looking into a fog of uncertainty with no plan, a shambles of a vaccination rollout and staring down the barrel of a 2021 and even more hardship and economic devastation.

As well as the high number of deaths and sickness since December, the other very serious problem now is that people have lost patience and lost faith and compounded by extremely poor communications a very depressed country is ready to explode.

So, a big salute to the dedicated ISAG crew who persisted with their very simple, spot on approach that could have had us raising our glasses together in our favourite watering holes.

You were right, all along and for whatever political reasons those in power did not do the “5%” that would have us out of this mess.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

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