JUST days after reopening, John De Bromhead of Henry Downes Pub on Thomas Street is one of countless small and medium Waterford business owners deeply concerned at the implications of any increase in restrictions.
Having acted responsibly from the start of the pandemic in March, de Bromhead waited until October 1 to welcome customers back into his premises. He and a number of other Waterford publicans chose to wait, and see out the recent spike in Covid cases locally. Whether that worked to suppress the virus is difficult to measure, but the lower case numbers in Waterford since would suggest that it definitely helped.
‘There is much confusion and frustration as to why the regional approach appears to have been abandoned in favour of a countrywide common restriction.’
Waterford was on the cusp of Level 3 restrictions just over a week ago, raising such concern that all local stakeholders – Waterford Council, Waterford Gardaí, Waterford Chamber and UHW Manager Grace Rothwell – teamed up to impress upon the public, in united voice, the crucial need to maintain social distancing, wear masks and adhere to public health guidelines. Their efforts, and those of Waterford businesses and the general public, were successful in pausing the tide.
While the case numbers are clearly still there – including a number of Covid positive inpatients in UHW, Waterford could have expected that it would at least be able to continue at Level 2 restrictions. That all changed over the weekend when it emerged that NPHET (the National Public Health Emergency Team) had recommended the entire country be elevated to Level 5 status, effectively fullscale national lockdown.
Monday progressed with the nation on tenterhooks as Cabinet met to discuss NPHET’s recommendations. As we went to print yesterday evening, it emerged that Taoiseach Micheál Martin was set to reject the recommendation, and instead move the country to Level 3, which will continue for three weeks. It does not mean that Level 5 is off the table, and pressure will now be very much on the Irish public – as Waterford managed recently – to curb the virus’ spread.
There is much confusion and frustration as to why the regional approach appears to have been abandoned in favour of a countrywide common restriction.
Matt Shanahan, TD, was unequivocal in stating that Waterford city and region should not have to close down “to match activity in Dublin when our disease pathway has been of far lesser order from the outset.”
Fine Gael Senator John Cummins echoed his sentiments saying it could have “a detrimental impact on public support for the (public health) measures, which has been essential in bringing case numbers back under control here in Waterford”.
He said it called into question the purpose of the five phase plan, which had been applied on a countywide basis.
It is an understatement to say that there is frustration in Waterford. However, with 518 Covid cases recorded nationally again yesterday there is no question but that the government and NPHET are grappling with an unprecedented challenge in terms of this pandemic.
We are all facing into an extremely volatile number of months, with this but one of the hurdles that will face us as individuals, as a Waterford community and as an Irish society as we see out Covid-19.