Coronavirus at the OK Corral

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

I’m imagining it as a joust in a Roman coliseum. There are two great warriors, one is called Antonio and the other Leonardo. They are natural leaders. In troubled times the citizens have looked to them for direction. Their charisma has won over even their biggest critics. But now – depending on which side you are on – they have both overstepped the mark, or so reports by the media claimed. The Young Buck, Leonardo gets all pumped up and is so furious he challenges The Patriarch to a fight down in the bear pit of modern media where the crowds love to bay for blood.
Of course, there were no real bears on RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live on Monday, October 5 and the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan wasn’t there to answer Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s charges but we all know by now that the attack was visceral. The Tánaiste effectively ‘took out’ Tony.
And for what? As it turned out, Dr Tony had nothing to do with the leaked letter.  Anyway, haven’t we had enough testosterone strutting out of the Walter Reed National Military Hospital recently?
FRANKLY, it doesn’t matter who ‘bounced’ the Government into this standoff over what level of restrictions we should be at because of increases in the spread of Covid-19.  
Hadn’t the messaging become too vague and confusing since Dr Holohan went on leave for such sad personal reasons some two months ago?
So perhaps Tony’s pre-emptive strike at the NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) meeting he called on the Sabbath, the day before his expected return to work, was to focus minds again. Perhaps that has been the real so-called ‘circuit-breaker’. After all Monday, October 5, was the same day when the GAA called a halt on all its club matches.
Wasn’t John Horan’s decision made unilaterally and pretty promptly after hearing that same morning about numerous breaches of the public health advice by fans, and indeed, players over that weekend. From any sensible perspective his decisiveness, with several county finals still to be played, has to be admired.
Horan explained that the GAA membership had been asked already to increase their compliance by the Acting CMO, Dr Ronan Glynn, but as social media footage from that weekend showed crowds at matches continued milling around while players huddled in celebratory groups in  direct contravention of the guidelines.    
Undoubtedly, the GAA’s decision will save lives as the virus’s toll on over-65s, and in nursing homes, begins to grow once again.
Of course, this is all to a backdrop of a general upward trajectory of cases, the onset of the  winter flu season and concerns about this country’s dismal number of critical care beds.

Public opinion
SIGNIFICANTLY too it is in a climate of change in public sentiment about restrictions. A new opinion poll showed last week that two out of every three people believed the Government should impose tighter restrictions. At 63 percent, this was an increase of nine percent on the previous week. Compare that to early June when only 20 percent of the population favoured tighter regulations. The Amárach poll was carried out for the Department of Health on Monday, October 5 and published the following day.
As the Government was extending Level 3 restrictions to the entire country, 44 percent of respondents said the coronavirus pandemic was appropriate but 44 percent also said it was insufficient. A clear split down the middle.  
Which brings me to the conclusion that perhaps Leonardo should have kept his powder dry for another few days. After all, one thing we are certain of in these uncertain times is that political parties want to keep the public on-side. Whilst our Tánaiste, and Taoiseach-in-Waiting, likes to shoot from the hip he may discover that on this occasion he should have kept his pistol in its holster.