There’s “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”, and then, of course, there’s Irish Government advice, which could best be described as “locking Shergar’s stable door tomorrow, in case he’s stolen”.
Like, this is quite incredible:
THE HSE HAS issued updated advice for anyone who has arrived in Ireland from Britain since 8 December, including self-isolation for 14 days, regardless of their Covid-19 test result.
Anyone who travelled from England, Scotland or Wales since 8 December is advised:
You should self-isolate for a period of 14 days from the date of arrival into Ireland. The previous advice was to restrict movements for 14 days – this upgrades this advice from just staying at home, to staying in your room.
The 8th of December was sixteen days ago. It is perfectly plausible that somebody could have arrived from the UK infected with the Coronavirus, gotten sick, and recovered, in that time frame. What, exactly, is the point in asking people who have been here for two weeks already to go into two weeks of isolation?
Then, last night, we had this news:
More than 20 flights into Ireland from London in the first three weeks of December contained at least one passenger who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
Between December 1 and December 18 one or more confirmed cases were noted on 24 separate flights from the English capital into Irish airports.
The news comes in the wake of Ireland joining the majority of EU countries in halting direct air travel from Great Britain as a new strain of the coronavirus takes hold in the south of the UK.
If the system is working properly, that shouldn’t be a problem. Airlines record passenger contact details, and where they sat. If somebody on a flight had Covid, it shouldn’t be especially difficult to identify every passenger within four or five rows of them, and get them tested, and into isolation.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has now been going on, in Ireland, for nine months. At this stage, the system should be working to efficiently detect cases, trace contacts, and get those people tested and into isolation.
Instead, what we have is a madcap scramble to shove out ineffective and useless advice, telling people who’ve been here for two weeks already to isolate in case they brought the virus in with them.
By the way, 20 flights sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. Dublin to London, and back, is the world’s second-busiest air route. In normal times, you’d expect to see more than 20 flights back and across the Irish sea in a single day. We’re talking here about a very small number of cases, on a relatively few flights. Our test and trace system, if it’s any use at all, should have been able to handle that.
Banning flights from London is popular, of course. For one thing, it’s a big, drastic, dramatic act, which serves to underline the seriousness of the Government’s approach, much like cutting off your nose to prove your commitment to spiting your face.
Second, its targeted against the hated United Kingdom, which makes for a good villain, with Brexit and all the other considerations that come into that.
But is it likely to be even remotely effective, given the cost, and the human damage being caused? As a country, we’ve effectively stranded thousands of our people overseas, away from their families, at Christmas. The policy is likely to encourage desperate people to circumnavigate the restrictions by flying via Belfast, and driving into the Republic, meaning that its effectiveness will be limited. It also means that a certain cohort of people who had previously obeyed the rules are now incentivised to break them.
And further, it should undermine faith in the rules, on principle, on the basis that these latest rules make no sense. What’s the point in isolating now, if you have been here for sixteen days already? What does that achieve, from a medical, or scientific, point of view. Chances are, if you’re in that category, and happen to be infected, you’ve picked the virus up in Ireland, not in the UK.
It’s hard not to get the distinct impression that the Government’s policy here, as so often, is much more about projecting confidence, competence, and decisiveness than it is, actually, about controlling the virus.