I like many am getting very weary of the lockdown. I feel that perhaps the unlocking is too slow and at times arbitrary in its progression. However I don’t pretend to be an expert epidemiologist and would not (despite my frustration) presume to second guess such eminent experts such as Tony Holohan and his colleagues who have spent a lifetime of research into infectious pandemics such as we now face.
However I am increasingly concerned by what the journalist Ian O’Doherty succinctly described this morning on the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk as ‘Narrowcasting’ – In using this phrase he clearly was referring to the narrow focus of the response to the pandemic which is focussed only on the infections and direct deaths from Covid19 with no reference to the broader picture which of course includes the thousands of undiagnosed cancers, heart conditions, pulmonary disease, children in agony awaiting scoliosis surgeries, transplant patients, mental health patients with suicidal ideation and a growing waiting list of urgent surgeries which will take years to catch up with and on which many will die because help came too late! Not to mention of course the ongoing destruction of our economy, Sport and the Arts and a recession greater than any in our history which will further hamper us in rebuilding our health services in order to minimise the numbers of ongoing casualties which most predict will (if it has not done so already) far outnumber the direct deaths from Coronavirus.
Do I blame Tony Holohan and his colleagues for this? No – not for a moment – he is doing his job very well – he was asked to flatten the curve and he and his colleagues with our cooperation have done that – He wasn’t asked to look at the bigger picture, the side effects on other areas of medicine or the devastation of the economy and society. And rightly so because he wasn’t qualified to do so. The problem is that nobody on NPHET (which he chairs) – the group appointed to coordinate the State’s response to COVID 19 is qualified to look at the economic and social consequences of their policy – They are all medical!
The sad truth of this is that the Taoiseach and his ministers, have abrogated their responsibility to lead. It started well with a truly statesmanlike speech from the Taoiseach and initially it seemed a broad government ministerial involvement but as the weeks have gone on we have heard less and less from the Taoiseach and the only visible leadership figure in the country is Tony Holohan whose daily updates have become the closest thing we have to governance in the country. This is neither fair on him or on us. He is not elected or qualified to lead our country through this crisis. Of course one might argue that in the present political shambles the Taoiseach himself has a very fragile authority – but at the moment he is all we have got and he needs to step up to the plate and take this burden off Tony Holohan’s shoulders and put it on his own and give a broader leadership to this country which takes account of the broader consequences of this pandemic and the disastrous effects of the counter measures. If the lockdown must continue so be it – I would prefer to hear that from the Taoiseach and know that other factors including but not exclusively the advice of Tony Holohan had been taken into account in making the decision. I know that these are not easy decisions and that lives literally hang on what is decided but that is the responsibility of Government not the chief medical officer.