Cautiously looking forward

Comment & Opinion

UNCERTAINTY REMAINS Perhaps we must learn to live with the virus, but that is easy to say for those less vulnerable – either physically or financially – and those who work outside the buckling health system.

The New Year typically brings with it a new dawn, a fresh start, a chance to look forward.
For some, the excess of Christmas might give way to diets and exercise regimes and varying levels of staying power. For others, it might be a time for resolutions and a chance to do things differently.
However, as with last year, the shadow of Covid-19 still looms large.
The ‘meaningful Christmas’ of 2020 was the precursor to a surge in cases in the New Year. January of last year was not a fresh start for many; sadly, it was the last month on this earth for too many of our fellow Irish people.
It led us all into another lockdown and that brought its own challenges, varying from door to door.
The vaccine roll-out was surprisingly effective and efficient, and we felt we could start to begin to turn the corner in fighting this virus.
However, the vaccine has not been a panacea. It has helped immeasurably in terms of reducing the impact of the virus in terms of people getting seriously ill and of people losing their lives.
But the arrival of the Delta and Omicron variants has moved the goalposts considerably. More virulent, having the vaccine is no guarantee of avoiding the strain.
But, it was important for the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, to make the following point last week: “If we had these case numbers and we didn’t have vaccination, which was the situation we were in this time last year, we would have very, very signifiant numbers of hospitalisations, we would have very, very significant numbers potentially of deaths, many more than we saw last year.”
With many questioning what was the point of the vaccines if they are not effective at preventing you contracting the disease, his assertion is a very important one to make.

Waiting game
It does seem prudent to be cautious in terms of our behaviour until we know for sure the impact Omicron has. That waiting game has curtailed the Christmas many had hoped for, but the surge in case numbers in recent weeks tells you everything you need to know about the ease at which variants can infiltrate.
Pubs are still closing at 8pm, and people are still being asked to restrict their social contacts. It remains to be seen what the rest of January will look like. For publicans, the 8pm closure will mean, for many of them, closure in the short term.
And no clear decision on schools has been made.
Indeed, not for the first time, communication from the Government has been poor. The clear friction between Nphet and politicians is not doing anything for the public mood, and both sides are accountable in this regard.
After all, Nphet referred to antigen tests as ‘snake oil’ some months back but is now advocating their widespread use ahead of testing. How much easier might matters have been if their use had been embraced at an earlier stage?
We are certainly a long way from the first half of 2020 when the faith in both Nphet and Government was extremely high as the collective fight against the virus was most pronounced.
A certain amount of fatigue is inevitable the longer something like this goes on, but political leadership has too often been sadly lacking.
So 2022 brings, yet again, an uncertain future in this mammoth fight against Covid. Perhaps we must learn to live with the virus, but that is easy to say for those less vulnerable, either physically or financially, and those working outside the health system.

Mayo concerns
Covid-19 has taken a heavy toll here in Mayo. Mayo has the highest incidence rate of any county in the country, according to the latest Health Protection and Surveillance Centre (HPSC) figures up to December 21.
We’ve had a total of 228 deaths in this county. Fully 45 of those – 20 percent – were people who went into Mayo University Hospital virus free, contracted it in there and subsequently died.
There can be no doubt that the challenges of running a hospital during the pandemic are mammoth, but the impact seems to be much greater in MUH than many other hospitals. Galway University Hospital had only nine such deaths – a fifth of the Mayo figure – and it is a much larger hospital.
The virus has brought many staff concerns to a head. Covid cannot be used as an excuse to halt the much-needed investment in the facility, both in terms of the required facilities for a hospital in the 21st century and the appropriate levels of staffing.
The coming year also remains very challenging for businesses across our county. Businesspeople have endured massive uncertainty for almost two years. It is important that we think of those local enterprises and support them where possible.
It is hoped that one of the positive aspects of the early stages of the virus – the community support and solidarity so evident right across our county – will remain. As challenging as the virus has been, it has taught us some important lessons about what it important in life.
Life is precious. Look after your loved ones, put things in perspective and as long running as this pandemic has been, always know tomorrow is another day with its own opportunities.
Here’s wishing all our readers a happy, safe and hopeful 2022.