Swabs for the boys: The Government's rollout of new Covid measures has been a joke 2 weeks ago

Swabs for the boys: The Government's rollout of new Covid measures has been a joke

Strong, immediate action is required to help curb this situation, not closing Coppers down at 12.

What a week, huh?

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On Tuesday, the Government confirmed that new restrictions would be put in place to help curb the spread of Covid throughout the country.

These restrictions included re-implementing a midnight curfew for pubs, clubs, restaurants and bars, household close contacts restricting their movements for five days, Covid passes for cinemas and theatres, and for people to work from home if possible.

As always, when it came to restrictions, the public had understandable questions: Why wait until now? Why these areas in particular? Why not do more?

I don't think anyone could have seen what was coming next.

What followed the announcement was a series of incompetent events that moved at a blistering speed, with action after action seeming more farcical than the last.

First of all, the venues.

For the past few weeks, there was certainly no shortage of anecdotal evidence about the lack of compliance with Covid regulations in the hospitality industry, particularly the checking of vaccine passes.

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But at least in those venues there would be an attempt to provide a safe environment for patrons through limiting the number of people allowed in, through social distancing and, in the case of Dublin nightclub Pygmalion, for example, the requirement for a negative antigen test before entry.

However, with venues closing earlier now, without necessarily reducing the amount of time people will spend in them, this will only push people away from heading out if they have to come straight back in again.

With Christmas only around the corner, the closure of these clubs could push people to host unregulated house parties instead, with no set limit of people, no vaccine checks, and certainly no space to be socially distanced.

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Large groups are going to be meeting up regardless of guidelines over Christmas; would it make more sense to have them somewhere regulated?

But, of course, hotels were exempt from these measures. Or were they? Seemingly not, as another another apparent u-turn from the Government suddenly impacted on more people, such as soon-to-be newlyweds whose special day is now going to look a whole lot different than originally planned.

And what about those who work in the industry, surely there'll be some support available for those people? This would be a perfect time to bring back the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), right?

The PUP has gone to the pound, and it's not coming back.

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The Government have no plan whatsoever to allow people to reapply for the PUP, and are beginning to reduce it as hours are reduced nationwide.

Secondly, household contacts are being asked to restrict their movements for five days, unless they test negative twice in that period using provided antigen tests.

These antigen tests will be free, but why not go further? Why not make all antigen tests free, like in the UK?

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly spoke on Morning Ireland this week, and was told he was advised not to make them free, due to the cost.

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Covid modelling winter hospital pressure Stephen Donnelly

"They're very, very expensive. Everytime you subsidise an antigen test, it's money you're not spending on a nurse, you're not spending on a doctor," he said.

This would be an understandable argument if there was a sense that more money was being spent on nurses and doctors, or at least to improve their plight.

The Irish Medical Organisation, however, has blasted the government for how thinly spread doctors and nurses are due to the pandemic.

"Every doctor and healthcare worker is working beyond capacity right now and it is untenable that they are being asked to face into a winter with insufficient support,” said Dr Ina Kelly, President of the IMO.

Regardless, there's just no money for free antigen tests, and everyone will have to pay...

Unless you work for the government.

Amid much confusion about who was responsible for the decision following initial furore when the news was announced, the provision of free antigen tests for government staff came across as particularly tone deaf in the same week the Minister for Health questioned if the same privilege could be made available to the general public.

The Government has regularly spoken about "personal responsibility". We, as a nation, can prevent another lockdown from occurring, all we need to do is to accept personal responsibility and to reconsider our plans for over Christmas.

Not once in the past 20 months or so has it appeared that the Government has taken any personal or collective responsibility for the situation we are in.

All we have heard are whispers of concerns and a sense of distrust. It's not the 30 unmasked kids in a poorly ventilated classroom that are spreading the virus, it's your neighbour bringing her kids on a playdate with yours.

Strong, immediate action is required to help curb this situation, not closing Coppers down at 12.

Images of Stephen Donnelly via Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie