IRELAND CLOSED FOR BUSINESS
In February 2018, I posted a message on Facebook, ‘Ireland closed for business’. All businesses were advised to close before 4pm and everyone advised to stay indoors for 24 hours. Storm Emma was on its way. Schools were closed. Flights were cancelled. People stockpiled food in advance for what would essentially only be a 24 hiatus in our lives.
I walked to my local village that morning shocked to see long queues in our local supermarkets. Baskets and trolleys were overflowing – fear-driven panic buying in full force, shelves cleared of bread and milk and vegetables. This occurred all over Ireland. Little did we know what lay ahead a few years later.
‘Ireland closed for Business’. Prophetic words as COVID-19 arrived on our shores in 2020. How many of us would have scoffed at the idea of national lockdowns? Would we even know what it meant? Would we have believed that businesses and schools would be closed for months, not by gale force winds howling down our corridors, but germs that have invaded every aspect of our lives. Occasionally contained by the severe measures of Level 5 lockdowns, only to re-emerge stronger than ever when a little leeway is given.
Xmas 2019 offered solace to those living overseas who wanted to visit their families in Ireland. Was it worth it? Or do we even know if this brief respite is responsible for the massive increase in COVID-19 cases in the Emerald Isle? As the saying goes – ‘Hindsight is always 2020’, a double entendre we could well do without.
I did wonder at the frantic need to come home for Xmas for those few days of the holiday season – theses were adults not children separated through choice by the English Channel. (Our plans to be with our own family overseas were cancelled as both South Africa and USA adhered to their lockdowns).
However, the Irish government caved in and lifted travel restrictions. The country’s seven-day rate jumped from 5.7 per 100,000 on December 10th to 132.2 on January 10th. We are a relatively small island with a population just under 5 million and yet we have the highest Covid-19 rate in the world. Not something to boast about.
A REMINDER OF HOW IT WAS
Attendance at Irish funerals is now severely restricted to a maximum of 25. Prior to this many families continued the tradition of The Wake, when friends and neighbours flocked to the home of the deceased to offer their condolences. Food and drink is offered to all who cross the threshold. Nowadays, wakes tend to be held usually for a few hours in the evening prior to the body being brought to the church. It’s a time of sadness, but also one of joy.
Sharing memories, being consoled, love and laughter, sorrow and tears, and that final farewell to the one you love, that final kiss on a cold marble face, before the coffin lid is closed. It brings solace to the immediate family and the helping hands are gladly accepted.
Some people still adhere to the old practice of an all-night wake. Indeed, with the support of all the family we were able to sit with our deceased mother during the night. She was never alone. I must admit I wasn’t holding a rosary beads, I was holding an IPAD.
I don’t know how, but with minimum effort on my part the room was filled with a beautiful melody, Heaven’s Garden -Mothers Song, written by Paul Kealy. It was the first time I had heard it and I was blown away by how appropriate it was. My mother had been a keen gardener, and her plants still flourish and will continue to do so.
I digress, but this memory reminds me of the story she told us about the American Wakes that were held when she was growing up in rural Ireland. However, the person being waked was still alive. Originating in the 1800’s when poverty and hunger decimated the Irish population, a one-way ticket to America usually meant you never saw your family again, as was the case with her sister Maria Caulfield.
Please, please, do not travel unnecessarily. Unlike those who crossed the Irish seas in the 1800 and 1900s, you all have access to Skype and Zoom and WHATSAPP. Save your life. Save ours.
One million died during the famine in Ireland. Depending on which report you read, between 20 to 50 million worldwide died from the Spanish Flu in 1918. So far more than 2 million people have died from COVID-19.
WELCOME TO IRELAND
Every week, almost 50,000 people are flying into Ireland from COVID hotspots. Only NOW since 16th January, is it mandatory to have a negative COVID-19 test, 72 hours prior to travel. If you’re travelling onwards and don’t leave the airport, there is no need. If you don’t take your germs with you they’ll be kept in lost luggage. A quarantine period or self-isolation is only advised – not mandatory.
‘Welcome to Ireland. Do you have your jab form filled out and your locator form? Good man yourself. Isolate for 14 days and you’ll be grand.’
‘I’m only here for 8 days.’
Flick flick through manual. Head scratching. Puzzled look. ‘Arrah, take care and you’ll be sound. Don’t touch anything. Don’t sneeze. Don’t cough. Don’t breathe. Have a good trip.’
Less than 10% of passenger locator forms are followed up.
Ten in a bed and one said: Roll over. Roll over.
And they all rolled over and one fell out and he let a shout.
‘Please remember when I am dead and gone
to self-isolate for two whole weeks’.
Nine in a bed and another one said……
You all know how it goes. And then there was ONE.
PLAN FOR LIVING WITH COVID-19
Yes, that’s what it’s called. Restrictions vary between level I to level 5. In Ireland we are currently on level 5 lockdown with a strong possibility of its continuation for another 6 weeks. Our lives are limited by an enemy we cannot see nor even comprehend. Areas are cordoned off by yellow tape as if they were crime scenes. Everyone’s mouth and nose is hidden behind a mask: blue, black, plain, patterned.
People are being fined for travelling beyond the 5km limit when it’s not essential. Three people travelled 80 km – yes, 80km to buy a burger and they were the ones who were caught. Is that for real? Snow tourists flocked to Co Wicklow travelling well beyond the 5km limit. Am I alone in wondering why these adults are not prepared to obey the rules so that we can once and for all get rid of this virus, or at least get back to some sense of normality, and re-open our country for business?
Do you want your children’s education halted for months on end? Do you want to become unemployed when the business you work for shuts down permanently? Do you want to sit by your mother or father’s hospital bed when they take that final breath? Hand on heart are you prepared to say that you will fight for your country? Fight for your family and friends? We are at war. Face up to it and together we can win the battle.
STOP AND THINK
The next time you decide to travel beyond the 5km limit or whatever travel restriction is in place at the time, stop! Stop and think about the millions of people worldwide who have NO CHOICE in how they live. Overcrowded conditions, shared toilet facilities (if any), no running water, lack of food, children’s bellies screaming with hunger, adult’s eyes more dead than alive. And you are stockpiling hand sanitizers.
Travelling out of bounds on a whim. Think before you act. We will get COVID-19 and its accompanying cousins under control provided everyone works together in unity and adheres to the regulations set in place. We need ZERO COVID-19! We need ZERO INTOLERENCE! More and more vaccines are emerging, soldiers marching forward to win the war. I only wish there was a vaccine for human selfishness.
COVID-19 NOT OUR ONLY ENEMY
In 2020, over 9000 people died from cancer in Ireland, lest we forget in the midst of this pandemic. 1 person dies from cancer every hour, while over 170,000 continue to live with the disease. There are many more vulnerable people in our society already suffering with life-changing illness and disabilities and they must not be forgotten at this time. These are not always obvious, there is no big sign over their head saying they may have a higher risk of being infected. Do any of them want to catch COVID-19? No, of course not!
Remember that when you decide not to wear a mask. When you decide to visit friends. When you decide to travel outside the 5KM limit for non-essential items or reasons: sightseeing, camping, and cycling with non-household members well beyond 5km. Most strange one I’ve heard is the man who did a round trip of 400km just to clear his head.
Many people are protesting that Lockdowns are in breach of their constitutional rights. What about my constitutional rights? The right to live. What about yours? Your parents? Your children? Your friends? Are we expected to be grateful that someone is out there on the streets protecting our constitutional rights? Which is more important, our right to live within certain guidelines or our right to die pleading whatever Article it pertains to.
I’m a great believer in human rights and freedom of speech, but they come with responsibilities and should never be abused. Retain your dignity and live to fight another day, assuming COVID-19 doesn’t get in your way.
In next week’s blog I will chat about our mental health and suggest simple ways that may help. Have a calm and peaceful week. Keep safe. Stay safe.
Dave Allen on the Irish Wake
I have written two novels available on Amazon