Left to its own devices, Coronavirus kills people one at a time. When it’s got the helping hand of Government and NPHET, on the other hand, it can wipe out whole cities:

The Cabinet are to meet this morning where they will decide on the latest NPHET recommendations.

The public health experts met on Thursday and formally advised that the county should move to level three.

This would see a much tighter lockdown on Dublin compared to the rest of the country in a bid to curb the spread of the virus here.

One of the measures recommended by NPHET came as a surprise which was closing pubs and restaurants that don’t have outdoor dining.

To be fair to the Government, what are they supposed to do here? They have scientific and medical advisers, in NPHET, who are paid to provide the medical and scientific advice. Is Government supposed to simply ignore it?

Because if Government did ignore it, and the consequences ended up being, say, ten thousand deaths in Dublin over the winter, then we can be fairly sure that those who called on them to ignore the advice would be up in arms, pretending that they’d have followed it to the letter if they were in power.

But on the other hand, this is why we elect politicians in the first place. We don’t elect politicians to make the easy choices – there’d be no need, because we have civil servants who are perfectly capable of doing that.

We elect them to make the hard decisions – the life, or death ones.

And in this case, there’s a hard decision to make. Because while ignoring the scientific advice might potentially lead to hundreds, or even thousands, of deaths, following the advice will, almost certainly, lead to a severe economic contraction in Dublin, costing hundreds and thousands of people their businesses, jobs, and medium term prospects.

Don’t take my word for it, by the way. Here’s a Dublin restaurateur:

Don’t forget, it’s not just small businesses closing. Most of these places shutting down equates to ten or fifteen more people on the dole, and many of them equate to a loan or two going unpaid, mortgages being defaulted on, and so on. The knock on-impact of one business closing is bad. When hundreds shut down all at the same time, it’s a disaster.

And it’s not just the restaurants and the bars. It’s their suppliers, too. It’s farmers faced with beef prices falling, and brewers faced with an ongoing collapse in the demand for beer, and so on.

And all of this to stop the spread of a virus which – for many, if not most people – is no more serious than the flu.

In this case, so, do you listen to the scientific advice, or do you say to NPHET: no, sorry, the cure is worse than the disease.

Those of us who would take the latter course need to be aware, though, that in recommending that it be taken we are taking the risk that NPHET, who are much more qualified in scientific matters than most of us are, are right. And that if they are ignored, people will die.

So have a little sympathy for our politicians on this one, please. It’s easy to puck in your two cents from the sidelines – us commentators don’t have to live with the consequences on our consciences, either way.

Whatever course the Government chooses today, there will likely be a bad outcome for someone. In their shoes, and given the balance of the evidence, yours truly would side with keeping things open, and pleading with the public to observe common sense behaviours to protect vulnerable people.

But ultimately, in a free society, where everybody knows the dangers of Coronavirus, we have to be grown up enough to let people decide the risks for themselves, and weigh up their own actions against the potential costs.

We can’t let the virus kill our capital city, and our country, and our way of life. The Government’s plan this week was called “living with Coronavirus”. We might just have to, you know.