Editorial: Middle Ireland Hammered by Lockdown
To head up the centre of Portlaoise last Saturday at noon was to show the true extent of the current Level 5 lockdown in sharp relief. Shop after shop closed and shuttered. It was the rare one that was open and trading on what should have been the busiest shopping day of the week. And what of the big multiples and chain stores? Nothing to see here. Gliding on unperturbed. Still open. For a video filmed on Saturday October 24th 2020 at Midday click here. The video paints a stark picture.
Where is the fairness and efficacy in all this? The little guy is always hammered in this country and, as ever, the Government won’t take on the big operators. This ensures the small operator is becoming increasingly unwilling to put his neck on the line and order in stock ahead of the Christmas rush. Who could blame him or her? Spend tens of thousands on stock only to be told the lockdown won’t be lifted on December 1st. After the 2020 we’ve all had the business people in our towns will be less willing to reopen especially if their banks, landlords and local councils haven’t met them halfway.
Those service providers who do open will not be able to cope with demand. Think of hairdressers for example. Even if they worked 24 hours a day the backlog won’t be cleared before Christmas. To have all the Christmas Shopping Season condensed into a three-week period flies in the face of the current demand for social distancing. It’s just another factor that doesn’t quite chime with the message the Government is supplying.
Apart from the Governmental message what of their efforts to bolster the contact tracing effort? This was the HSE response to our questions earlier in the week:
“Contact tracing was scaled up over the summer with over 550 staff now working in tracing. The first 750 people are now through the interview process and over 270 newly recruited Contact Tracers have started. Following training, we expect to continue to bring in 60-70 new staff each week.”
The Sunday Times report of October 25th on the shortcomings in our Contact Tracing system (‘Tracing System off track’) made it quite clear that in the last week the “HSE found itself unable to cope.” In times of plenty Middle Ireland might well shrug off such incompetence. Not now however. With businesses closed and shuttered it is time for Official Ireland to rise to the occasion and deliver on their side of the bargain. Namely adequate fines and enforcement plus a robust and accurate contact tracing system. If it can’t do that then it’s time to get people in government who are as quick-witted, resourceful and hard-working as all those hundreds of thousands they have forced out of work.