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Comment: Covid doesn’t take a holiday

WE REALLY need a break. The last four and a half months, since the pandemic was declared, have taken a huge toll. With the possible exception of the Emmy-nominated actor, Paul Mescal – a man with West Clare ties, and for whom the last year has seen his star rise and rise – most of us would prefer to write off 2020.

We have suffered grief and loss. We are struggling with terrible uncertainty about the future. Every single one of us has made heroic sacrifices and now fatigue is setting in. We are battle-weary. The sun is shining (occasionally) and there’s a lot of steam to be let off after our spring-time lockdown. Wouldn’t it be great to forget about everything, just for a while? It would be a big relief to pretend that Covid-19 never happened. That it isn’t happening. That it’s okay to go back to our old familiar ways – our cosy chats in close contact with friends and colleagues, our hugs and handshakes. That social distancing, masks and sanitisers are things we don’t have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

If you take a walk around any of our seaside villages, where the staycation boom is bringing a welcome boost to the local economy, you could easily forget that we are still in the grip of the pandemic. On the one hand, it’s great to see so many young people behaving in the carefree way that youth deserves. On the other, it’s deeply disturbing to witness those scenes from Kilkee on the bank-holiday weekend, where the lack of concern for the common good was chilling. And that is why we cannot forget that Ireland is facing a second wave and we cannot become complacent. Every experienced sportsman and woman will tell you that when you let your guard down, that is when your opponent is most dangerous. Take your eye off the ball and you will pay the price.

So, let’s recap on the key statistics. To-date, globally, the number of infections stands at around 20 million and the death toll at around 740,000. In Ireland, we are inching towards 2,000 fatalities since March. The European Centre for Disease Control revealed this week that Ireland’s incidence of Covid-19, per head of population, now outstrips that in the UK. In Clare, we have more than 400 confirmed cases. A recent analysis of figures by this newspaper, revealed the alarming extent of deaths in Clare and we have seen spikes in infections after a long period with almost no transmission.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has warned that it is preparing for further regional lockdowns. These are facts we cannot afford to ignore.

If the hard statistics aren’t enough to convince us, we should listen to people like Kieran McCarthy from Shannon. His daughter has Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and like tens of thousands of families across the country who have vulnerable members, he lives in dread of infection. Kieran’s call to avoid complacency must be listened to. We must get that message across to everyone in the community.

Kieran identified Paul Mescal as an influencer who has the power to reach millions. The GAA shorts Paul wore in the lockdown TV sensation Normal People have already been put up for auction for charity. Gucci have designed a range of clothing inspired by his GAA kit. Think what he could do to get the mask message out to young people. Perhaps his West Clare relatives might have a word in his ear.

Meanwhile, most of us normal people really do need a break. We need to staycation safely to flatten the curve of any second wave. We need to remember too that while we take a holiday, the silent enemy does not.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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