Originally, this piece was headlined “lockdown until May, says Taoiseach”. But that actually might be too optimistic, because additional sources appeared while it was being written. And, according to the Irish Times, one of their sources at the FF Parliamentary Party meeting told them that the country was effectively in a state of “indefinite lockdown”.
Indefinite, of course, is another word for “potentially endless”:
“We are in a phase of indefinite lockdown,” said the source. “The restrictions will continue right into April and possibly to the beginning of May.”
“There will be zero wriggle room for anyone looking for relaxing of restrictions,” he said.
What is “indefinite lockdown”, though? Isn’t that just another way of saying “we’re stuck”? A year ago, a fall in cases of this magnitude was enough to begin a limited re-opening of the country, and to loosen restrictions dramatically over the summer. What’s changed?
In part, you suspect, politicians are traumatised by what happened at Christmas, and terrified of being blamed if a limited re-opening of the country results in a fresh surge in cases. In part because of smug media told-you-so coverage, and in part because of an over-reliance on medical advice from experts who would probably be happy to have this level of caution be a permanent feature of life, they’re scared.
If that wasn’t gloomy enough, the Minister for Health issued this glowing update to our TDs yesterday in an email circular:
Just another short update on the national Covid-19 vaccination programme.
As of Monday I am glad to report that we are now in a position to update the vaccine doses administered on a daily basis and today, you can find this information on the Covid Tracker App as well as on COVID-19 Data Hub.
The latest figures, up to Sunday February 07 are 240,487:
Total First Doses Administered: 153,654
Total Second Doses Administered: 86,833
This means almost 1.8% of our population is now fully vaccinated.”
1.8% of the country vaccinated in the six weeks since Christmas? If vaccination proceeds at this pace, Ireland will be fully vaccinated by…. around 2027. Indefinite lockdown, indeed.
The good news, if this news puts you into a deep state of despair, is that it will be over much sooner than that. Unfortunately, that’s not an expression of deep faith in the Government’s ability to speed up the vaccination process and gird the health service so that it can withstand Covid. It’s just a simple statement of reality: The country will face economic and social collapse if this thing continues for very much longer. At some point, they’ve either got to beat Covid, or throw in the towel.
The vaccine programme, at this point, is a national scandal. For reasons that have not been explained, and cannot be explained, the Irish Government is stubbornly sticking with an EU vaccine acquisition programme that has completely failed. The country is now facing indefinite lockdown, and, all the time, the virus is buying time to forge new, vaccine-proof, mutations.
The Government’s plan, by the way, is just to tread water. Keep us locked up. Keep the country locked down. Hope that nothing bad happens. Hope that the people don’t rebel too much. There is zero sense of urgency, and zero sense that there is a working or workable plan to get the country back to normal in 2021, or even 2022.
It’s not, by the way, as if the Government does not have options. Is there any plan, you might ask, to expand the capacity of the healthcare system to facilitate a limited opening up of the economy while the vaccination process speeds up?
There is not.
Is there a plan to acquire additional vaccines, outside the EU scheme, to speed the vaccination programme up?
There is not.
Is there a plan to introduce antibody testing, so that those who may have had covid, but not been diagnosed, can verify their immunity, and go back to work?
There is not.
There is, in short, no plan, except the current plan, which has now failed, over and over again, for a full calendar year.
Forgive me, if this piece is excessively ranty, but the country is being failed, beyond measure, by its political leaders, its civil service, its public sector, and most of its commentariat.
And also, by the opposition, by the way, whose new answer to the failure of lockdown amounts to “lockdown harder”.
Revolutions were started over less than this.