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An unwanted feeling of déjà vu heading into Christmas

By Mindo - 29th Nov 2021

There is a sense of déjà vu at the moment: The rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, a hospital system cracking
at the seams, and grim pronouncements by senior politicians and health officials a regular occurrence.

We have been here before. Over the past year-and-a-half, there have been three national lockdowns. We know the drill. So why did the restrictions announced on Tuesday 16 November, minor as they were, feel so dispiriting? The difference is that we hoped we were beyond this. The development and fast roll-out of vaccines led many to believe the worst of the pandemic was over.

That even with the more contagious Delta variant, the protection afforded by vaccination would allow for the mass gatherings and social events we all took for granted before 2020, without the health service being overwhelmed. However, this hope turned out to be overly optimistic.

We are now being told that the level of socialisation is too high at present. That it is unsustainable. That further restrictions cannot be ruled out. After being told previously, of course, that lockdowns were a thing of the past. There is a notable lack of leadership and clear messaging at present.

As has been said by many others, the Government put such faith in the initial vaccination programme that there
was no other plan. A certain amount of sympathy can be extended: There are few countries or populations that
have not suffered during this devastating global crisis. As society reopens, surges are perhaps inevitable,
to some degree.

And yet, getting that caveat out of the way, it now seems increasingly clear that, in this country, not enough thought was given as to how to better protect citizens and the health service during the winter period. Given the evidence that the immunity offered by vaccination wanes after a number of months, the delay in rolling out the booster campaign is hard to fathom.

But there are other oversights. Ireland’s contact tracing infrastructure remains inadequate, and the disbanding of the service to schools appears misguided, with new European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) guidance
recommending contact tracing in educational settings.

We are also behind the curve with regard to antigen testing, despite the recent national public health emergency team recommendation that people engaging in ‘high-risk activities’, such as going to nightclubs and bars, should undertake at least two antigen tests a week.

The HSE is also working on implementing the ECDC guidance in relation to using antigen tests in schools. The hope is that the Government learns from the current surge and, combined with the development of new vaccines and treatment, we can emerge from this crisis in the not too distant future. The coming Christmas was supposed to be different. However, the shadow cast by Covid-19 shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon

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