Stroud and Ireland: two homes, two different responses to the virus
I’ve lived in Stroud for thirty years, but I was born and raised in Dublin.
Mary Omnes writes:I left Dublin after I finished university and have in fact lived in Stroud longer than I lived in Ireland, yet when I’m going to Dublin, I always say ‘I’m going home’. I don’t know why that is. I have a good home in Stroud. I’ve noticed a lot of people from the Republic of Ireland do it, we all call Ireland home. Maybe it’s a Catholic thing. Most Catholic families of my generation were very large, maybe ‘home’ for us is where we have a lot of relatives, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. I don’t know…. One way or another over my thirty years of living in Stroud I’ve always gone ‘Home’ regularly.
As it happens I was there for the last two weeks of February, and the reason I’m writing this piece is because I was so struck by the startling contrast in how the Irish and the UK government responded to the Corona crisis. The handling of it is a subject close to my heart because I have a severely disabled son. His lungs are weak and if he contracts the virus, there is a high chance it could kill him.
IN MY FIRST WEEK IN IRELAND I SOCIALISED IN THE NORMAL WAY – HUGGING, EATING IN RESTAURANTS, GOING TO PUBS, ALL ACTIVITIES THAT NOW SEEM LIKE VAGUE MEMORIES.
However by the second week of my visit, people were staying further back, the hugging and hand-shaking stopped and everyone was talking about the Corona virus. On the news each evening there was a step by step demonstration of how to self isolate. It was very clear what to do, eg. stay indoors, don’t answer the front door, get food delivered, wear gloves putting out the bins, and what not to do, eg. don’t go near other family members or near a hospital or doctors surgery. At that point everyone with even a hint of a cough or temperature was being asked to self isolate. People were talking about large gatherings being cancelled, and there was talk about enforced lockdown. It was the end of February and Covid 19 was the talk of the nation and people were taking it seriously and acting accordingly.
I RETURNED TO THE UK ON 1ST MARCH. I EXPECTED LIKE IN IRELAND THAT EVERYONE EVERYWHERE WOULD BE TALKING ABOUT THE VIRUS
They weren’t. On the contrary if I brought up the subject, people tended to say they suspected it was no worse than regular flu. I was taken aback and surprised. Had the Irish government really got it’s response so wrong? Within 10 days Ireland was locked down. In the UK although the media was now talking about Corona virus on a daily basis and giving demonstrations of handwashing, life for the most part was carrying on exactly as normal. Scientific advisors were saying on the national news that it would be a mistake to shut down too soon. I didn’t understand their logic. Surely the intelligent thing to do would be to shut down the country before the virus got a grip on the nation. Family and friends in Ireland were flabbergasted and annoyed at the UK’s slow response. Allowing the Cheltenham races to go a head was irresponsible beyond words. What was the government waiting for?
I’M NOT SURPRISED THE DEATH RATE IN THE UK WILL BE ONE OF THE HIGHEST IN EUROPE.
The government’s leadership and actions in a time of crisis were abysmal. Still now they’re not telling us the true numbers of people dying. I’m sure when the numbers are finally tallied, percentage wise Ireland’s death rate could be as little as a quarter of the UK’s. Ireland acted fast and behaved responsibly from the outset, that action saved many lives. I presume lockdown in Ireland will end before lockdown in the UK, and their economy will recover faster. The UK’s slow response was false economy, and terrible leadership, and it caused and continues to cause the unnecessary deaths of many lives.