Opinion: We all have a choice to make this weekend 4 weeks ago

Opinion: We all have a choice to make this weekend

It’s estimated that human beings make 35,000 choices a day.  

35,000 times during our waking hours, we pick to do something, or not do something. These can be as simple as what colour socks we wear, bringing an umbrella to work having glanced out the window or even butter or mayo at the deli. They can also range up to the life-defining ones that we all try to avoid as much as possible. 

Now, we’re being asked to make choices that are pretty simple, but could be life-defining. 

Thursday evening’s Covid-19 figures for the Republic of Ireland jarred a little. Six reported deaths, although explained by Dr Ronan Glynn as being likely due to under-reporting (no reported deaths in three of the four preceding days). 23 new cases, 77% of which were in people under the age of 25 and all of which were in people under the age of 44. 

We have all seen the videos from Dame Lane last weekend. But we’re also all in WhatsApp groups. We’re also on Instagram. We see, hear of and maybe attend events that are contrary to public health advice. 

We’re impatient.  

We’ve had the last few months taken away from us. Many of us have lost income, lost jobs. Some of us have had to move home. We’ve had what makes us happy, what gives us something to look forward to, dangled on the end of a string in front of us while the treadmill keeps getting longer and faster. Holidays, festivals, gigs, bags of cans, barbecues. Gone. 

At a time when we’ve needed the things that provide us with an escape more than ever, we’ve been trapped in the relentlessly real world that threatens to cave in at any time from multiple angles. In a word, it’s been shit. 

But it has been necessary. 

As of Thursday, 1,743 people have died with Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland. Many of us have lost loved ones. Many people restricted only to mourning from a distance. We’ve heard stories of grandchildren watching funerals on their phones in church car parks. People unable to celebrate the life of a lost loved one in the way they want, because of the very virus that took them away. Lives cut short. Stories lost. Genuine tragedy. 

Lockdown saved lives. Narrowing our worlds to a two kilometre bubble lessened the crisis, but it still happened. We took pride in how we acted. The Irish people coming together and doing what was right for the country. 

You’re probably sick of the phrase “new normal”, I know I am. But it was summed up perfectly by Dr Ronan Glynn on Thursday evening when he said that "If we try to go back to living and acting like we did last January, it is only a matter of time before we're facing a significant problem with this disease." 

We are stepping through this slowly, because we are still learning about this disease. We have seen localised lockdowns in South Korea, England and Australia, and there is the potential for that to occur here if the disease does not remain under control. 

So we have choices, because that is what they are. We do not have to wear a face covering in shops, but we should if we can. We do not have to physically distance where appropriate, but we should. We might get away with doubling our allotted time in the pub, but we shouldn’t. We might want to think that this pandemic is behind us, but it’s not. 

In fact, 76% of people under the age of 35 believe a second wave of Covid-19 is likely in Ireland. That's the highest of any of the age groups surveyed. From the figures this week, it is largely in our hands to prevent that.

No matter what public health officials tell us, or how many celebrities recite scripts over drone footage of Ireland while a poignant piano tinkles in the background, some people will ignore what is needed to do. You can’t control that, neither can I. 

All we can do is control our own actions. Ask ourselves; is this safe? Am I putting myself, someone I love or someone I’ve never even met in danger by doing this? Our lives cannot stop, but they are likely to be altered while we learn to live with this virus. 

It is the choices of the Irish people that will decide how this pandemic progresses in the coming weeks. What we decide to do will affect how many more people get this disease. Covid-19 is not out there, in the literal sense. It is in people.  

People transmit this virus. People can stop it. People have a choice.