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Poor communication worsens Ireland’s covid fatigue

If vaccination rates in this Dublin neighborhood match Ireland's rate, only about 5 percent of the people have had the first covid-19 vaccine. (Daniel Cleary/YJI)

Dublin, IRELAND – It’s almost a year ago that the Republic of Ireland had its first confirmed case of Covid-19. 

Only a few weeks afterwards, Leo Varadkar, who was then Ireland’s taoiseach, or prime minister, addressed a nation of terrified citizens who were becoming increasingly concerned about the threat posed by the novel coronavirus.

Three interminable lockdowns have ensued. 

Last week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressed the same nation, but the feeling among the population was somewhat different. 

There was almost ubiquitous public buy-in when Varadkar spoke. His successor (and predecessor if this current coalition government lasts) was speaking to a weary audience.

“The end is now truly in sight,” Martin told us. 

I was glued to the television when Varadkar spoke last March, feeling anxious and agitated. Last week, I was only half paying attention. 

This is our third lockdown and people are, understandably, becoming very disheartened. 

So-called ‘wet pubs’ – pubs that do not serve food – were ordered to close on the 15th of March 2020.

Those in Dublin have not opened their doors to customers since.

The story is much the same for all hospitality. Those working in non-essential retail have found themselves opening and closing in a yo-yo like motion. 

Our vaccination program has received much criticism. 

Around 5% of our population have received their first dose, according to the BBC, while 27 percent of the population in Northern Ireland has had the vaccine.

The same can be said about our attempts to introduce mandatory quarantine in hotels for passengers traveling from abroad. This was first recommended to the government by the National Public Health Emergency Team, Ireland’s expert body, back in May 2020. Opposition teachtaí dála – members of the Irish parliament – have slammed the recent attempts being made to introduce this as “half-baked.” 

The most disheartening part of all of this from an ordinary citizen’s point of view is the deplorable communication from those in charge.

The reason I wasn’t really paying attention to our taoiseach last night was because I already knew what he was going to say. No, I’m not a clairvoyant, I’ve simply paid attention to the news. 

Time and time again, critical information has been leaked by the government to the press before it has been officially announced.

Just last week, in a newspaper interview with the Irish Mirror, Martin said that “until the end of April you can look at significant restrictions.”

That remark alone pertained to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. Surely the duty of the leader of the country is to deliver that message to all the men and women of that country.

Even some of the things that have been announced have failed to materialize. In early January, it was announced that those sitting their Leaving Certificate examination – students taking their final year exams – in June would be returning to the classroom for three days a week.

Minister for Education Norma Foley claimed to have consulted the “partners in education” on this matter. But she came under pressure from teachers unions as well as students who were unwilling to put themselves at risk at a time when cases in Ireland were among the worst in the world and was forced to renege. 

In his address last week, Martin outlined that those students would be returning to the classroom on Monday, March 1. Schools for children with additional needs, which have only partially returned in the last few weeks, also caused trouble for Foley. 

So yes, fatigue is certainly a factor in the demoralized population.

But I find myself wondering how far we have progressed in the past year and wondering what’s next for Ireland.

My confidence in the government is dwindling and I can only hope that they make the correct calls on the tough decisions that lie ahead. 

Daniel Cleary is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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