At some point, over the summer, it was decided that vaccine certificates were the way forward. The thinking behind them was straightforward: Vaccinated people are safe, and sound, when it comes to Covid, so why not let them mingle together? As summer turned to autumn, and autumn turns to winter, it should be evident to anybody with even half a brain that such thinking was wrong at best, and a fantasy at worst. It is now self evident that Covid 19 is, at the very, very, very best, slowed by the vaccine. Not stopped.
Nevertheless, vaccine certificates persist. They are no longer really about stopping covid, in any meaningful sense of that phrase. They have become, instead, a more traditional Irish tool: a weapon to enforce conformity, and to highlight the fifth columnists in our midst, on whom all our troubles can be blamed: The anti-vaxxers.
We’re blaming the anti vaxxers because the war on covid has been comprehensively lost. After almost two years of lockdowns, restrictions, school closures, cancelled weddings, five-man funerals, cancelled rugby games, cancelled European championship games, travel bans, mandatory quarantines, nine euro meals, facemasks, vaccine drives, and endless addresses to the nation, covid is still here, and more prevalent than ever. The plain truth of the matter is that it will always be here. The war is over.
The only question that remains, to any sane mind, is how we react.
There are, approximately, two options. Option one is to continue to treat covid as an emergency, and treat ourselves to regular addresses to the nation, rolling and unrolling restrictions, daily panic about case numbers, fears about vaccine boosters and hatred of the unvaxxed, and so on. That is the path on which Ireland is currently on.
Option two is to recognise that the war has been lost, give people the tools and the information to protect themselves, and get back to being a normal country.
As I wrote yesterday, a crowded Irish health service is nothing new. In fact, it is a perennial problem. A problem which, despite spending €40 billion euro of your money on Covid, has not been addressed. A sane response to the present situation would be to scale up our health service capacity substantially. There is, to my knowledge, no such plan to do so.
The other problem is this: Most of, if not all, our present restrictions are entirely for show. Performative limitations on your freedom, designed to make a nervous public feel better. Vaccine passports, for example, clearly have not slowed the spread of covid. Restrictions on pubs and nightclubs will not do so either, because people are perfectly capable of organising their own parties.
The media, of course, love Covid. That is not new, or surprising. Any business worth its salt would enjoy a phenomenon which makes more people into its customer. RTE, the Irish Times, and other media outlets had bumper years during covid, even as other sectors of the economy were suffering. Health experts love Covid, too. Who, after all, had ever heard of Sam McConkey before he became the Covid prophet? Who had ever heard of Tomas Ryan? There is a collection of people who have made careers out of covid doom-mongering, who have every reason to fear a return to obscurity once it is done.
And then, last of all, comes the public. The public must take a good portion of the blame here, because Covid 19 in Ireland has unveiled all of our national contradictions: We love rules, but do not really consider that they apply to us, so long as we are “careful”. At the height of our restrictions, beaches were full, and almost as full as Joe Duffy’s call list of people complaining about the beachgoers. It has been an escalating national cycle of outright insanity.
This is not uncommon in countries that lose wars. In the dying days of World War Two, many Germans were captured and hanged by their own people, as the losers frantically tried to blame anybody but themselves for the mess in which they found themselves. Ireland is presently in that stage: the blame game.
The simple fact of the matter is this: We tried to stop covid. We failed, comprehensively and totally. We spent billions of euro in the course of that failure. It is over, and done with.
The only remaining question is whether we squander more of our national treasure, and sanity, fighting a fight that is over and done with, or whether we wake up and realise that we can, in fact, live relatively normally, in the same world as China’s Coronavirus.
Eventually, we will get to that realisation. But apparently, at this rate, it will only be after we have tried every other insane approach first.