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covid crisis Why can someone travel 5,000km from Brazil and I can't walk around Templenoe GAA ground?

Government's Covid messaging all over the place as it persists with failed and ruinous lockdown strategy

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Micheal Martin should be only one who talks Covid.

Micheal Martin should be only one who talks Covid.

Micheal Martin should be only one who talks Covid.

Hand on heart, last Sunday's article generated one of the biggest reactions I've ever had to a column in the Sunday World.

Stressed parents poured out heartfelt stories about how their children are struggling because there is no training to go to, no games to play and they can't meet their friends.

I heard stories from lads in their 20s who were feeling down because they are not allowed to walk to their local pitch and kick a ball around.

Only rugby players at provincial level have some respite and the League of Ireland is now gearing up for its kick-off in a few weeks time with pre-season friendlies.

The underlying message from these lads was one of hopelessness. Sadly, many people are broken.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

The government's policy on Covid-19 has Einstein's definition written all over it.

Despite three lockdowns we have made little progress in suppressing the virus. Daily cases have plateaued at an unacceptably high level.

This begs the question as to whether our policymakers have learned anything?

Take the handling of the crisis in nursing homes, for example. In the early months of the pandemic there were many deaths in these settings.

So what measures were put in place to prevent this ever happening again?

Since last November there have been a further 709 deaths related to Covid-19 in nursing homes.

So, the answer has to be damn little.

Last spring meat plants were the source of numerous outbreaks of Covid-19.

Again, what lessons were learned?

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Leo Varadkar acts like he is boss.

Leo Varadkar acts like he is boss.

Leo Varadkar acts like he is boss.

All I know is that last month there were 66 positive Covid-19 cases in one plant in Munster.

And here are a few more salient facts about the meat-processing industry.

Sixty percent of the 15,000 workers in Irish meat factories come from abroad.

In a 28-day period this year 5,500 people travelled into Ireland from high-risk Covid-19 countries.

Guess what - 2,000 of those came from Brazil to work in Irish meat plants.

Yet, mandatory hotel quarantine for visitors from specified high-risk Covid-19 countries is at least a month away.

So go figure out why somebody can travel 5,000km from Brazil, whereas I can't travel more than 5km from my home or even walk around Templenoe GAA ground.

As I also alluded to last Sunday, poor government communication has exacerbated everything.

Witness the debacle over the transmission error in the new 'Resilience & Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19' document published last Tuesday.

On initial reading, it appeared all sport in Ireland was being banned for the next six weeks.

And there are other issues which perplex me.

NPHET, for example, is an expert medical and scientific advisory body.

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Simon Harris isn't camera shy.

Simon Harris isn't camera shy.

Simon Harris isn't camera shy.

Its expertise is not in communications, but it hosts several press conferences every week.

Assistant General secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach Liz Canavan hosts a different press conference at which she reads out a prepared statement.

It's akin to the principal reading out the school rules every morning at assembly.

And then there is the government itself.

Let's be charitable and suggest that too many ministers express too many opinions on the topic of Covid-19.

Eamon Ryan hops off his bike outside his department to give his tuppence worth; Simon Harris makes a beeline to the nearest camera; Stephen Donnelly usually has to issue a clarification after every appearance, while Leo Varadkar talks like he's still the Taoiseach.

Last weekend, it appeared Roderick O'Gorman was the chosen minister to deliver the government message.

But he sounded totally out of his depth.

As for Minister of State Josepha Madigan's public utterances on various Covid-19 topics, I won't even go there.

It ought to be rule that all messages about the pandemic must come from the Taoiseach and I happen to think Micheál Martin is a safe pair of hands to deliver them.

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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

He should host a couple of press conferences each week to deliver updates.

And if he wants to bring along an expert in a specific Covid-19 topic, or another government minister, so be it.

The Taoiseach needs to be open and honest; the message must be based on the best scientific advice and provide clarity.

Every other government politician and their spin doctors should seal their lips. Did they never hear of 'no comment'?

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Eamon Ryan is often part of a disjointed message.

Eamon Ryan is often part of a disjointed message.

Eamon Ryan is often part of a disjointed message.

My worst fears about the 2021 Leaving Certificate exam have come to pass.

It was a classic example of educational partnership at its worst.

All the stakeholders get something, and we end up with nothing substantial.

It reminds me of the saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

I note the predicted grades are now called accredited grades. It's like a company rebranding a failed product.

There are two issues with the accredited grades.

Firstly, they don't consider the oral exams or the practicals.

But worse still, because students have missed so much class time during the last 12 months, teachers have very little face time with their pupils to give those students an accurate grade.

There is no way students should have been given the option of choosing the accredited grade or sit the exam.

It's the greatest each-way bet ever. I know what I'd be opting for if I was doing the exam again.

Let's return to where I began.

So why haven't the lockdowns worked?

They are an emergency measure, not a solution.

For the last year we have been chasing the virus and it is laughing at us.

Any plan to deal with the virus must be speedy and flexible and the one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work.

I have listened carefully over the months to Dr Michael Ryan from the World Health Organisation, who is, for me, the world's leading expert on the pandemic.

This is what he has said repeatedly: "We must focus on cases, contacts and clusters, restricting the movement of those who are sick or their contacts. You don't have to restrict the movements of all society."


The debacle over Christmas has added another dimension to the crisis. The government have become paralysed.

It's like a forward who, having kicked a bad wide in an All-Ireland final, doesn't want to take on another shot in case he misses.

The government has got to be brave.

The situation down here in Kerry illustrates why the one-size-fits-all solution should be revised.

In the 14 days up to last Sunday we had 74 Covid-19 cases. On nine of those 14 days we had fewer than five cases per day. On one day we had zero cases.

Our incidence rate is 50 per 100,000 people - the lowest in the country. The national average is 240 per 100,000.

So, we have abided by the rules and flattened the curve in Kerry.

Now, we're like a team who has just won the All-Ireland and is told to play the game again.

Surely, it is time to consider a regional approach.

Given the numbers in Kerry, people should be allowed to travel within the county and pitches should be open for youngsters to train under strict supervision.

But having listened to a lot of heart-rending stories in the last week I fear that the current lockdown is destroying the youngsters of the nation - both physically and mentally.

The black dog that is depression has visited many households over the last few months.

The role of sport in subduing that evil visitor should not be underestimated.

What can we do?

Literally nothing other than keep our heads down, abide by the rules, get out and exercise as much as possible, and hope and pray that as Micheál Martin said on Tuesday the end is truly in sight.

I hope he is right; otherwise, the young people of Ireland are heading towards a cliff edge.

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