The pandemic demands clear political leadership

De Facto

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

Talk about being confused! The Government produced a clear chart with five levels. Each level had clearly defined allowances and restrictions. Everyone knew where they stood. We knew what we could and couldn’t do, letting us prepare, adjust psychologically and plan accordingly.  
Just after it was released, the Government messed it up. They created a ‘limbo level’ where the edges of some restrictions met in a kind of twilight zone. It was a pure barnacle goose, neither fish nor fowl; a total mess that led to total confusion.
One doesn’t like to be critical during a pandemic, but we cannot continue calling a spade a shovel. The pandemic we are most experiencing is the shambles surrounding decision-making in government circles.
Following the expected outcry over the ‘ban’ on household visits, Michael McGrath was wheeled out to soften the blow by saying it is ‘not a ban’ but ‘a judgement call’. The big problem is that lack of clarity and conciseness in Government pronouncements leads to confusion. People do not genuinely know which restrictions apply to which level because the Government keeps changing the rules.    
Everybody is fed up with the virus and wants to get rid of it. People have been and are more than willing to do their share to ensure that it can be controlled, contained and eradicated. Lockdown was no joy for most people yet most are still willing to suffer another short, sharp lockdown if it will deal with the problem.
The confused leadership of Government and medics only gives credence to all kinds of conspiracy theories. Many people’s mental health is being seriously affected by the Government’s ongoing slobbering and foostering. Businesses are being compromised and confidence is ebbing away. It is death by a thousand cuts.
Government decisions are causing concerns – do they have to be seen to be ‘ahead’ and get their retaliation in first before NPHET beats them to the ball, again? Why did they force the Gardaí to set up roadblocks when they had no legal authority to ‘turn people back’? They just antagonised an increasingly frustrated workforce. So typical of the Government to use the Gardaí as their whipping boy, again.
And they have the gall to talk about introducing fines for people who don’t comply. Why not introduce fines for ministers who cannot make sensible decisions? Stupidity fines! That would swell the coffers.
Strange how, almost eight months on, we still cannot have an all-island approach to the pandemic. If it were foot-and-mouth disease or any other threat to the farming sector, borders would be erected or ignored to ensure safety.
With all the talk, we always hear that the schools will be kept open, happily ignoring the fact that children can transmit the virus also. People can still freely travel into this country – and still now no airport checking, scant follow-up and no control over where people go within the State. A chain is only as strong as its weakest leak.
What about other illnesses? Cancer waiting lists are among the many growing medical waiting lists. A full 99,000 Cervical Check screenings have been delayed. How many people will die because of this? Can you prioritise causes of death?  
Is the HSE in panic mode because of a lack of ICU beds? Successive governments ensured we are among those with the lowest number of ICU beds in the EU. Too few ICU beds is blamed for Italy’s high Covid mortality rate.
As Gerard Curley wrote in an article entitled ‘Intensive care units cannot cope with another wave of Covid-19’, published in The Irish Times on September 8: “An analysis by Harvard Business Review showed that in Germany up to June 20, 4.7 percent of patients had died, compared with 14.5 percent of patients in Italy. Attempts to explain this disparity points to ICU capacity. While both countries have had major outbreaks, Germany had more ICU beds per capita as the pandemic began (48.7 versus 8.6 beds per 100,000 inhabitants), and a national ICU bed registry allowed it to prevent local overloading by swiftly relocating patients.”
We’re all in this together but we need leadership, partnership and solidarity. On this confusion boat, pray there won’t be a mutiny from stern to bow.