October 30, 2020
News Opinion

MICHAEL WOLSEY: Why combating Covid is everyone’s business

Selfish students whooping it up in Galway, Cork and Belfast did not cause the leap in the Covid infection rate. But they contributed to it.

Thoughtless politicians and an arrogant judge attending a golf society dinner did not give the virus a new lease of life. But they helped it on its way.

GAA fans celebrating club triumphs were not responsible for pushing the country onto Level Three. But they did their bit.

What all these people have in common is that they either knowingly broke the Covid rules or were remarkably ignorant about the intention behind  those rules.

Most of us have probably broken the rules at some point. We popped out to the shop and forgot to bring a mask, we failed to keep a social distance, we invited the legal gathering in our garden back into the house, where it became an illegal gathering.

These are careless slip-ups and we need to do better. But they were accidents whereas the three groups listed above either didn’t know the rules, didn’t care about the rules or thought the rules didn’t really apply to them.

Since we entered the new partial lockdown I have heard many calls for regulations to be made law and for the Garda to be given greater powers to enforce those laws. There would be no need for either step if we all took responsibility for our actions.

I am talking of personal responsibility and also collective responsibility.

A friend recently attended a wedding  at which the rules were being broken as flagrantly as they were at that infamous golfing dinner. There was dancing and singing, people were ordering drinks from the bar and plates of food were placed on tables for guests to help themselves.

My friend tutted about it, but she did not leave, nor did she complain to the hotel management either at the event or afterwards. She shirked her personal responsibility and the hotel shirked its collective responsibility, since it must have known full well that the rules were being broken.

Gardaí can’t be everywhere but there are many other people whom we employ to keep law and order  in a general sort of way, and they don’t seem to be doing their jobs.

When the edict was first issued that masks had to be worn in shopping centres, I saw a security guard approach a gaggle of teenagers in a mall and ask them to put on theirs. When some of them said they didn’t have masks, he politely told them to leave.

That was two months ago and I have never seen this action repeated even once, although almost every day I see huddles of kids, and a few adults, without masks in shopping centres.

When I asked a security man to intervene he told me it wasn’t his job. Maybe not. But if one of the teenagers had lit a cigarette he would have been over to them in an instance. So, in similar circumstances, would any barman, bus driver or taxi owner. But I have heard all these people say that it is not their job to enforce the rules on masks.

They are shirking their collective responsibility as surely as the maskless teens are shirking their personal responsibility, refusing to make the small individual contribution that will help keep our whole society safe.

I’m no great example. Yes, I raised the mask issue with a security official in a shopping centre. But just the once, and I didn’t press the issue when he declined to take action.

I could have approached the young offenders myself but that idea never even crossed my mind. So I, too, shirked my personal responsibility. My lack of action didn’t send the Covid figures soaring. But it helped.

I don’t want to catch Covid. I don’t want anyone I love to catch it. and I don’t want the country moved to Level Five.

So from now on , I intend to take personal responsibility and a more active approach.

I will let you know how I get on. If this column is missing next week, it may be because I have been beaten up in a shopping mall. At least I’ll be able to identify my attackers. They won’t have been wearing masks.

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