Dublin will move from Level 2 to Level 3 of the government's Living With Covid-19 framework, imposing semi-lockdown restrictions in the capital from midnight. Pubs and restaurants will be closed and many other businesses put in jeopardy. Elderly people will not be allowed many visitors, if any, to their homes, and families from different households won't be allowed to meet for possibly three weeks.
These are all very serious and upsetting restrictions for people, and yet many people here in Offaly seem to be revelling in the news. Offaly experienced identical restrictions with a second lockdown back in August and we felt hard done by. Businesses had to close again and people's lives were turned upside down. We know it's not a nice place to be so why have we been wishing it on another county?
It's not just an Offaly thing either. Since August when numbers started climbing in Dublin, people across Ireland have been baying for its blood. 'Lockdown Dublin;' 'It's one rule for us and another for them' - we have fielded hundreds of comments along these lines on the Offaly Express website and social media channels. The anger was feverish in its intent to get Dublin placed into that much-maligned state of 'lockdown.'
Some will point to the numbers. Yes, Dublin's incidence rate of the virus is climbing but it's not as high as Offaly or Kildare's was back in August when we entered LOKdown. It ticked above 114 per 100,000 population on Thursday of this week. Our two-week incidence rate was 138 last month. Kildare's was almost 200. So why, if we were aggrieved at being placed into lockdown based on those numbers, are we shouting from the rooftops for a lockdown in Dublin based on less? It actually makes no sense.
By the same logic, if Offaly had around 60 cases diagnosed over the next two weeks, or two per day, we should be put back into lockdown as our incidence rate would be around 114 per 100,000. Is that the metric we want to use, or is it only when it suits us? The anti-Dublin sentiment has been spilling over since the beginning of the pandemic, especially in the last couple of months.
Videos of bar brunches and no social distancing had us incensed. But similar incidents occurred in Killarney and elsewhere, and what did we do then? We blamed the tourists, and said, 'it was probably a group of Dubs down for the weekend.' The same sentiment is in Offaly today as news of 20 guests testing positive after staying at the Bridge House Hotel filters across the country. It is believed some of the group were from Dublin but we haven't spared a second in slating them.
Firstly, at the time, people were allowed to travel freely around the country. They too were allowed book into a hotel, go for dinner and play golf, and yet still we annihilate them in the comment threads. One commenter on our story said, 'I hope they all die roaring,' while others added to the fury against a group of people who unfortunately now find themselves in a difficult situation. Some may be very ill with the virus but not one ounce of empathy has come out in the comments. We've left our solidarity back in March, it would seem.
There appears to be no room for reason in the reaction to Thursday's news. The story was broken here on the Offaly Express website and nowhere in that report, or in any other report since, does it say where any member of the group contracted the virus. They were staying for four nights on a staycation, something being encouraged by the government, and could have easily picked up the virus in Offaly and then had it spread around their group. But no, we will continue to blame them for 'bringing it down' to Offaly.
The story neither divulges whether the group of 40 ever stayed, dined or socialised together as one big group. It's unlikely because hotels, pubs and restaurants are the ones responsible for enforcing table number limit rules set out by Failte Ireland. We know that only 14 played golf, and even if they were on course together, 14 is under the numbers permitted for outdoor training anyway. Let's be honest, it's unlikely they were playing a 14-ball round all clumped together at either course. Have we lost all grasp of common sense?
Covid-19 clusters have occurred all over the country. People working in one county, living in another and contracting the virus. Workplaces being closed; schools, hotels and sports clubs too. We are trying to live with it in our communities and shouldn't be getting into this pattern of blame. We have made it a phoney war between Dublin and the rest of the country and it's complete nonsense.
This isn't going to be a popular opinion and you can head over to the comments section under this story on Facebook to see us getting slated as well.