DUBLIN – Ireland is a nation of saints, scholars and the status quo.
This small island on the northwestern outskirts of Europe is ruled by two old enemies: the center-right Republican party Fianna Fáil and the Christian Democrat wife Fine Gay, who have been on opposite sides of the political divide since independence in 1922.
Under an agreement reached in June, Fianna leader Fáil Micheál Martin took the reins as taoiseach, or Irish prime minister, from Fine Gay leader Leo Varadkar until 2022. It’s a polite, if imperfect game of musical chairs to maintain stability during turbulent times.
It was either to form a minority coalition with 43.1% of the combined vote, or to form a coalition with the left-wing Sinn Féin party, which won 24.5% of the vote in the February general election, and began life as a political wing. and / or the voice of the Irish Republican Army, a terrorist organization.
Has all this been related to the coronavirus? The nation̵7;s legislators, perhaps more than usual, have been eager not to disturb this delicate balance of power and / or upset the public by making any sudden move or mistake as the nation shrouded in the economic effects of the pandemic.
Six months after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ireland, the government finally decided to implement face mask wearing in stores. As of Monday, people risk a fine of up to € 2,500 ($ 2,947) or six months in prison. Prior to that, the government had issued only one piece of advice.
Schools are also reopening in September. The government has recommended that all high school teachers and students wear face masks when a distance of 2 meters cannot be maintained. However, this remains more of an advisory than an implementing measure.
Martin told a news conference in Dublin Castle about the new store policy: “As we have seen with face masks on public transport and many other demands made on citizens during the pandemic: When people are given a clear direction they follow him. “
More on the pandemic: If every American started wearing a face mask today, that’s how many lives can be saved
‘High level of compliance’
Martin’s comments may suggest that his previous “counseling” was not a clear direction and people did not follow it However, Justice Minister Helen McEntee complimented people on “their high level of compliance”. But it depends on what store you are visiting, and how you define “big”.
In June, the Irish government advised people to wear masks in stores. If you want to wear a mask? Be our guest. Knock out. Help stop the spread of coronavirus and protect the health of store assistants, but he or she may not even have a face mask.
And if you do not want to wear a mask? OK then. You risk an eye roll from an unhappy buyer with a mask buyer who depends on “mask anger” or just trying to force everyone to work as a team, so we overcome this without a push on new cases.
And so life goes on in Ireland. In fact, it would put a lot of pressure on you to notice that there was – or is – a potentially deadly floating virus. If you listen closely, you can even listen to music from a house party or two. Few people wear masks on the street. Some do in stores, but not all.
Even if there was a “high level of compliance”, it does not count the cost paid by those who are subject to other people’s lack of respect. Facial masks are worn primarily to stop the asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carrier from unwanted spread of the virus.
As Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for three decades and an infectious disease expert for four decades, told the reporter in an interview last month, “If half the people don’t do it, this kind denies the general purpose. “
More on the pandemic:Why are some people with coronavirus asymptomatic – and what makes them so contagious?
“Aren’t you wearing a mask?”
“It should have been mandatory from the start, lives could have been saved,” said Elizabeth O’Connor, a 40-item home maker in Dublin. “I think a lot of people have had COVID without knowing it and have probably spread it to others as they have not been wearing masks.”
“A seemingly high percentage of our teens, 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds think they are bullet proof and their behavior and have little concern for the most affected in our society, who may get COVID with consequences heavy, “she says.
Counseling for the mask led to inconvenience, including this little visit outside a pharmacy in Donnybrook, a prosperous and leafy suburb of Dublin. An elderly woman worried about the mask asked a middle-aged father with his young daughter (both without a mask): “Aren’t you wearing a mask?”
If he was performing some kind of black magic, it was 100% clear that this man was not wearing a mask, and he was not happy when asked about the fact that he chose not to wear one. “I forgot about it,” he replied, without making eye contact. The conversation did not end here.
“It should have been mandatory from the beginning, lives could have been saved.”
Three minutes later, he was still fixing on anecdotes about how people did not wear masks in supermarkets and what shape they have by not doing so. “I can not believe some people!” the woman said from behind her mask. (If he is reading this, from “some people”, it would mean you.)
Johns Hopkins University ranks Ireland No. 15 in the world in a list of COVID-related deaths per capita: 36.5 per 100,000 with a fatality rate of 6.7%. For comparison, the US ranks No. 12 with a mortality rate of 49.6 per 100,000 and a fatality case rate of 3.2%.
On Sunday evening, the government said there had been 1,772 COVID-related deaths in Ireland, with 68 additional cases confirmed, bringing the total number of infections here to at least 26,712. This, as with all such times, does not constitute the majority of asymptomatic cases.
Ireland has also recorded one of the highest COVID-related nursing home death rates in the world, according to a report released in June. About 62% of virus deaths occurred in nursing homes, a rate exceeded only by the home deaths of COVID-related nurses in Canada.
More on the pandemic:Fauci tells Americans to beware of these important restrictions on any future coronavirus vaccine
“They will never ask for so much so much from so little”
And it all seemed to start so well. Varadkar, a former Taoiseach, made a confusing call for weapons on March 17th. “They will never ask for so much from so little,” he said in a televised address, appearing to pay homage to a speech by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill.
To help revive the patriotic duty of the public, Varadkar used March 17 to urge the people of Ireland to stay home. March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, a national holiday to celebrate the country’s patron saint who, according to legend, drove all snakes out of Ireland sometime during the 5th century.
St. Patrick, a Christian missionary, was in that case of self-immolation at the time. He was on a 40-day fast when he was reportedly attacked by snakes. Since he was so rudely interrupted, he pursued them at sea. (It’s of course apocryphal. Snakes have never lived on this island.)
Back in the summer of 2020: chose Varadkar not to introduce nationwide blockade by March 27th. People were allowed to leave the house to shop for groceries and exercise within 2 miles of the house, and the Irish – not always known to play by the rules – for the most part agreed.
Why the 10-day delay between the March 17 speech and the closing? It could be the same reason it took six months to introduce a mandatory policy for the face mask: Political upheaval. Skeetish politicians are quick to get the public temperature, and obviously have no desire to shake the proverbial boat.
But flattening the new case curve does not mean you have beaten the virus. Ireland, which is currently in the 3rd stage of reopening the country, last Saturday imposed travel restrictions on Kildare, Offaly and Laois, three counties the heart of the country, due to an increase in cases there.
‘This will come as a blow to pub owners’
Learning from all this reluctance to take faster action? Listen to scientists – not politicians. COVID-19 is highly contagious. That is why nearly 20 million people worldwide have tested positive, a figure that does not represent the number of people who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic.
Across the Atlantic, Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, which has been the epicenter of the virus in the US, put power in the hands of business owners by issuing an executive order in May to allow businesses to deny acceptance to anyone without a face mask.
New Yorkers – much like St. Patrick – jumped into the beast proverbial and remembering how scary it was now tend to give each other space on the street and, yes, stay six feet away in the supermarket. Even in Central Park, most pedestrians wear masks.
To be fair, the Irish government has taken other bolder decisions: In his speech announcing the policy of mandatory mask shops, Martin said drinks, bars, hotel bars and nightclubs will stay closed. “I know this is going to come as a blow to pub owners,” he said.
Drinks serving food in Ireland – less than half of them – are currently only open with table service: There is no standing in line at the bar or being accompanied away from your table. You need to book ahead of time, eat food as well as drink, and leave behind exactly one hour and three quarters of an hour.
Martin’s masked application for masks, for this New Yorker originally from Ireland, is still welcome. Irish Men and Women – Irish men and women – wake up on Monday with another rule. The mysterious woman disguised outside that pharmacy in Donnybrook should be pleased.
Martin, meanwhile, summoned the spirit of St. Patrick’s attempt to deceive snakes in his recent speech on the dangers of the coronavirus. “It remains as virulent as ever,” he said, adding, “As dangerous as it is, we have shown that we can beat it. Each of us has the power to suppress it.”
This essay is part of a MarketWatch series, ‘Dispatch from a Pandemic’.