By Sophia Hadef
What a difficult start of the year. Starting with a Level 5 lockdown, most of the shops are closed, no sitting in cafes and restaurants, the schools are closed and five kilometres is the maximum distance you can walk or run around your home. You need to stay at home, to go outside only for essential purposes and you cannot have any visitors to your home. All those restrictions are all considerably essential for this Covid situation. What if those restrictions had been applied all throughout December and during Christmas? What if the government had listened to the NPHET, to Tony Holohan’s warnings?
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly recently maintained that the Government didn’t go against NPHET’s advice over Christmas. It is very interesting to analyse politicians claims after a month of events. We clearly all remember that most shops, most restaurants and inter-county travel were allowed in December. We all have the clear memory of a Christmas week full of last minute restrictions happening just before New Year’s Eve. Whether we agreed or not, we all knew that meeting friends and family over the Christmas period was a risk to our health, a danger that could bring the virus into our homes and where we ourselves could then spread it over the spread it over the weeks that followed. This was especially true considering lots of people present no symptoms and as a result, will never get tested. Schools were supposed to re open on the 6th of January, and letting Christmas happen, with all the people travelling throughout Europe and between our counties was a recipe for disaster. We all miss our families and friends. Covid-19 has put a threat over our head for almost a year now. But we also all want to survive, to be able to live normally again, to meet each other without a single restriction. December’s events clearly showed the inability of the government to deal with this pandemic.
Tony Holohan is an Irish public health physician who has been the Chief Medical Officer of Ireland since May 2008. And despite his repetitive warnings, despite his background as a Deputy Chief Medical Officer and studies from a medical school (he graduated with a Masters in Public Health in 1996), the main figures of the government rarely take advice from this specialist. What about Stephen Donnelly? Our Minister for Health has a background as a management consultant with a degree in mechanical engineering and a masters in international development which includes health-related courses. This doesn’t make him a specialist in health, certainly not in comparison to a doctor or a health expert like Tony Holohan. It is interesting to notice that many government figures represent a domain they never studied, a field they serve just by knowing other politicians and got an important role without any requirements. It is risky to elect such major roles for a country without any background or selection conditions. We see it every day, to get a job, we all need to prove a background in certain areas, and it is becoming more and more common to get a job because we are specialised in the particular area of work that we applied for. Why is this principle not applied to such big figures as government ministers? Why are they elected mostly for their parties and acquaintance rather than their specialisations in the field they want to represent and work for? I think the answer has never been more clear, this pandemic would have been better handled by health experts instead of incompetent figures abusing their authority without proper knowledge of their sector.