COMMENT: As COVID-19 Restrictions Are Eased Further, It’s Time For Us All To Open Up Too

This week, as Ireland prepares to re-open further, Gavin argues that the time has come for more of us to emerge from the COVID-19 restrictions in our own way

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One of the features I like most on social media is Facebook’s ‘memories’.  Essentially, for those who are unaware, it reminds you of a post from yesteryear on its anniversary.  And it was through this feature that I was reminded that this past Tuesday was the fourth anniversary of the Brexit referendum.

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The morning after that vote felt pretty bleak, as I recall.  Our Friday Panel discussion (they’re currently on pause because of the need for social distancing by the way) was due to focus on a range of topics, but was taken over by the result we’d woken up to.  So too was most of the show.  In the media generally, that day, there were reports of economic collapse and essentially the end of the world as we knew it.  Compared with COVID-19, it seems relatively benign in hindsight (even though Brexit hasn’t gone away of course), but that is my overriding in-work memory of that day.

Outside of work, as Facebook reminded me, things were different.  I’ll keep the details to myself (my Facebook page is personal), but social media reminded me of how that evening at home was a thoroughly enjoyable one with my family, in spite of everything.  It put everything into perspective, I felt, and the general point of my post was ‘we’ll get through this’

That same sentiment, I think, is needed now.

I’ve always had faith that life would get back close to normal this year, but going back to the dark days of March and April, I never would have thought that sports training would resume and that most businesses would have re-opened before the end of June.  I know that some people feel that is too soon – I see that sentiment in messages each morning, and Thursday’s CSO figures highlighted it further – but I feel like many of us now need some perspective.  So let’s talk facts for a minute.

In Clare, there has been one case of COVID-19 diagnosed in June.  There have been no cases reported in the past two weeks.  It’s highly probable that there is less coronavirus in our community now than in the days before lockdown was enacted.  We are testing far more now, as a country, and instances of the disease remain low.  For every positive diagnosis of COVID-19 in Ireland, there are 199 negative tests.  So I have faith that the figures published each evening are likely an accurate reflection of the overall situation.  Levels of coronavirus here are now.

Now, could it come back?  Absolutely.  There will likely be spikes of the disease in the period of time to come.  But with regards to coronavirus, it’s probably less dangerous to be out and about now than it was in March when the virus was ‘on its way.’

Lockdown is lifted, and society is opening up for good reason.  Monday will see virtually all businesses re-open.  So now it’s time for many of us, I feel, to release our own shackles, and to begin to move on from a very difficult time.

Uncertain economic times remain, and there’ll be difficult days ahead on that front, but as one texter to the show said this week, surely it’s better to stand for a day than to crawl all our lives.  All of us will be better, and just as importantly our towns and our villages and our county will be better, if there is more confidence abound. We can venture out, and return to a degree of normality within the health guidelines.  If we all do a little bit more; if we are all a bit more brave, then my sentiment of four years ago can resonate once more.

We’ll get through this.

I know there are 1,700+ people in Ireland, including 32 in Clare, who have succumbed to COVID-19.  Each death, no matter the age of the person who has died, is a desperately sad tragedy.  If you have grieved for someone you love at this time, then my thoughts are with you.  This time has left an indelible scar on families throughout Ireland.  But those who have been bereaved are part of my ‘we’ too.  ‘We’ is everyone.  It is our society, our county, our country.  It is our place, our people and our communities.  I am sure that the vast majority of those who have died would want for their country to survive and thrive going forward.  We shall remember them.  We will pay tribute to them.  But we must also do all that we can to return our lives to normal, or close to normal.  The longer we stay in our shells, the harder it will be to emerge.

The motto on the Clare GAA crest reads ‘Na céada sa g-cath; na deigheanaca as.’  Loosely translated, it means ‘the first into battle, the last out of it.’  Clare people are battlers, warriors and fighters.  More importantly Clare people are honest, decent, hard-working folk who retain an intense pride in their place.  Let’s show that pride now.  Let’s battle together, for our place.

For the first time, I’m going to ask YOU, the reader of this column, to do something more than just read my ramblings, and it’s very achievable.  Do one thing over the next week FOR YOU that you haven’t done in months.  Be it a haircut, or a cup of coffee, or dinner out (with a pint!), going to the beach or the park… it doesn’t matter.  It can cost nothing.  But please, I urge you, venture one step forward and live a little more than you did in the last seven days.  Shop local.  Shop Irish.  Don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with.  Follow the guidelines.  If you sense that somewhere you are in is too crowded, and you feel unsafe, turn on your heel and walk away.  But don’t let the fear of that happening stop you from living life a little bit more in the first place.  You’ll be all the better for it, and so will your community.

It’s not my nature to be positive, but positivity is what we need at this time.  So treat yourself, even if it’s just a little bit, and try to make your difference.

And remember, we’ll get through this.