OPINION: Local lockdowns to combat Covid-19 are prudent but locking down three entire counties makes no sense at all
Let's start with a geography quiz? Is Edenderry closer to Dublin or Birr?
If you answered Dublin, well done, you know more about the geography of Ireland than the learned folk who have decided that Covid somehow recognises county boundaries.
The epicentre of this outbreak is three factories in Kildare and yet Birr is locked down and Dublin is not, despite being considerably closer. Explain that one. Yes there were a handful of cases in Carrolls in Tullamore but nothing like enough to warrant a draconian lockdown of Tullamore.
This basic lack of spacial awareness has resulted in a jaw droppingly short sighted decision to lockdown three counties, one of them being Offaly.
I'll let Laois and Kildare fight their own battles, we've never fought for them before and l'm not going to start now, but in terms of Offaly, the decision to shut down the entire county defies all right thinking logic.
There is no doubting that local lockdowns are a key tool in the battle against Covid and they have been used from China to Leicster and from Australia to Aberdeen. But this lockdown, announced today as businesses now facing closure prepared for the weekend, is a long way from being local. A steam roller is being used to crack a nut. If there is an area where there is an outbreak, restrictions absolutely should be put in place to stop the spread.
In this case, the locations of the clusters are well known and a lockdown in that vicinity makes total and complete sense. A ten mile radius, twenty mile radius, whatever makes sense.... unlike locking down all of three counties.
And not to labour the point, but as we've already seen, Dublin is more local to the source of this outbreak than Birr. And to take it to the extreme, Edenderry is virtually the same distance from Dundalk as it is from Moneygall. Just let that settle in for a minute.
And apologies for really labouring the point but Enfield in Meath is just 13 kilometres from one of the factories - staff who work there live in Enfield - and yet it remains open.
Here is a truly novel idea. Instead of locking down over 370,000 people, why not shut down the facilities hit by outbreaks? Did anyone think of that? It doesn't look like it. Are they even going to be closed now? If they weren't closed before, it's unlikely that particular axe will fall now.
Obviously it's easier to close down three counties rather than food processing facilities that are yet again the root cause of a serious outbreak.
How many jobs far from the outbreak are now being put at risk? How many businesses already teetering on the brink will be pushed over the edge and into the abyss?
I don't want to turn this into a quiz but do you know how many confirmed cases of Covid there have been in Birr since the start of the pandemic? Just 19. Ferbane? Five. Banagher? Eight.
And yet these bustling towns and others are all in lockdown from midnight tonight and the repercussions will be felt long past the two weeks looming ahead.
My daughter lives and works in Dublin and she has actually had people contacting her today to say they hope her family in Offaly is okay.
I mean what the f**k.... apologies for swearing but what the actual f**k.
You'd swear we were all going around ringing bells shouting "unclean, unclean" but this is now the perception of Offaly in some parts of the country.
Go back to July and Offaly (and Laois for that matter) had some of the fewest newly confirmed cases in the country. Tullamore hospital has been all but free of Covid for a month.
Which begs the obvious question, why lockdown three entire counties at this point instead of going for a far more localised and far more easily managed lockdown for counties that, in the main, are on the right track?
Are we all a test case to see if local lockdowns can be imposed and managed in Ireland if a more serious and more widespread outbreak occurs?
Are we the ones being made an example of for the rest of the country, warning them that this could happen to them too?
And if the rest of the country doesn't learn its lesson after Offaly, Laois and Kildare have been hauled up in front of the entire class, will they face the same punishment?
If there is an outbreak in Clonakility, will they close down all of Cork?
If there is an outbreak in Kenmare, is that it for Kerry?
If there is an outbreak in Gort, is Galway on lockdown?
If there is an outbreak in Thurles, is Tipperary toast?
And if there is a cluster in Donabate, Dalkey or Drimnagh, will Dublin finally get locked down?
Do you remember when Dublin was crawling with Covid, we had to lockdown the entire country?
Do you remember when Dublin was crawling with Covid, we couldn't have a regional lockdown?
Do you remember when Dublin was crawling with Covid, it was one for all and all for one?
So what can we expect when the far from local lockdown comes into force? Will there be ramparts on the road to Roscrea? Will there be barricacades on the bridge in Banagher? Will there be walls on the way to Westmeath?
Or will something resembling common sense prevail curtailing the lockdown to a far less vast geographical area?
I'm not holding my breath. If we've learned anything from this new government, it's that it might not be a bad thing that the breweries are closed right now.
And one more thing (as I was reminded of by many people in the comments on Facebook) we are locked down while people are still flying into airports and landing in ports every day.... Isn't it a great little country!