we will have to find out as we go


With the cautious lifting of restrictions at a time when cases are rampant, the contours of what “living with Covid” will mean are taking shape. Tuesday’s announcement that Friday’s reopening would continue, but with terms and conditions, signaled two things: first, it will be a catch-up as it goes; second, living with Covid means living with substantial amounts of Covid for the foreseeable future.

The first sign of this was the press conference at government buildings. When the inevitable questions arrived, the three Coalition leaders acknowledged them, but the answers were few. To some questions about how the next phase of reopening would work, given the lingering restrictions in some areas, they more or less shrugged: of course, we were wondering ourselves.

It is very different from similar events of the past. Previously, when the government announced either a reopening or restrictions, the three leaders sought to prepare for every issue. They had an elaborate plan and they wanted to share it. How will it work? Here is how it will work. When will this happen? This is when it will happen.

This time, however, it’s different. The message is this: we’ll have to figure it out as we go. “Anomalies” was the word of the day. An anomaly is when you can go to a bar in a nightclub, but not in a pub. And it is far from being the only one.

It’s not very satisfying if you can’t wait to open your nightclub in two days, or even attend. Hotel business owners have been asking questions since Tuesday.

They will get some, but not all, of the answers they are looking for when industry representatives meet with government officials on Wednesday.

“Look, there will be differences between sectors, it’s inevitable,” said a person involved in the discussions within the government. “None of this is black and white.”

Nightclubs

The decision to reopen the nightclubs was made in the knowledge that an extension of the nightclub lockdown would result in the permanent closure of many places in the area. In other words, the government weighed the economic effects of maintaining the restrictions and decided that a potential increase in Covid cases was an acceptable price to pay to avoid them. Nphet and Dr Tony Holohan have explicitly considered the possibility of maintaining the restrictions, but could not say things would be different in a few weeks. The industry has made it clear to the government that not opening now could mean not opening at all.

The government does not state it explicitly, but insiders accept that it is the compromise at the heart of life with Covid. They accept that living with Covid means living with a lot of Covid – that the number of cases will continue to rise for a few weeks, that hospitalizations will increase for another month or so, and that intensive care numbers will, perhaps, become dangerously close to capacity.

All of this implies something else that no one is talking about to the government: Covid deaths will increase in the coming weeks. While living with Covid implies an acceptable level of disease in the community, it also implies a level of death that people are willing to accept in order to avoid reimposing restrictions and blockages.

What is this level of death? This is an issue that no one has really addressed yet, inside or outside of government. Last week he was 63, and that hasn’t sparked a public or political outcry. But the numbers are expected to increase in the coming weeks. So it’s 50 a week? 100? The issue will not be avoidable forever. The management of the Covid has entered a new unexplored phase.


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