Sunday, May 02, 2021

Fr Paddy Byrne

MARY Robinson has joined more than 150 former heads of state and Nobel laureates in signing an open letter to US president Joe Biden calling for a ‘people’s vaccine’ to end the pandemic.

India and South Africa have led the campaign, which calls for intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines to be waived so that production can be ramped up globally. The Biden administration is said to be considering a temporary waiver of World Trade Organisation (WTO) intellectual property rules during the pandemic. Former president Robinson has supported the campaign and has also called on EU leaders to ‘put the collective right to safety for all ahead of everything else and come together to end this pandemic’.

The letter to Mr Biden says the waiver will ‘save lives and advance us towards global herd immunity’. It goes on to state: ‘These actions would expand global manufacturing capacity, unhindered by industry monopolies that are driving the dire supply shortages blocking vaccine access.

‘Nine in ten people in most poor countries may well go without a vaccine this year. At this pace, many nations will be left waiting until at least 2024 to achieve mass Covid-19 immunisation.’

The poor suffer most in this pandemic, that’s why a just and equitable distribution of vaccines is so important.

Nationally over the last year, the news has developed its own irreversible template:

1) Government and NPHET representatives are invariably asked when will x, y or z be happening

2) The usual response is: We can’t be specific because we don’t know what the science will be telling us at that point

3) But people need clarity and there’s a breakdown in communication because they are not getting clarity

4) We can’t be specific because we don’t know what the science will be telling us at that point.

Acres of print and forests of trees have been sacrificed, repeating that same interchange in different ways. Exactly the same template is followed by politicians – those interested in getting into power but haven’t the responsibility of high office at present and those who don’t want to get into office and have the added luxury of building even bigger castles in the air. For both, it’s about getting on television and invariably the sequence follows 1, 2, 3 and 4 above.

For the first lockdown, there was a certain novelty. We started baking, painting or testing out our green fingers in the garden. Then the flour and the paint ran out, or we started walking, or phoning relatives and friends exchanging experiences and worries about adjusting to the 5km limit. After a while, we realised that no-one had any news because no-one was going anywhere, and no-one was doing anything or meeting anyone. And if we happened to meet someone, that person had no news because they were going nowhere and meeting nobody.

So the same stilted conversation was about wondering how long the lockdown would last, when would a vaccine be available, when would schools open, when essential services like barbers would be back. And the unchanging response was 2 (above) – we can’t be specific because we don’t know what the science will be telling us at that point.

Even planning for the future became a nightmare. Almost everything had to be cancelled or postponed – holidays, weddings, Christmas, evenings out, weekends away – and even if they were not, Covid-19 became the unquestioned excuse to put anything vaguely uncomfortable on the long finger.

All that was reasonably possible was to grow hair and to expand the figure as the high points of the day became breakfast, dinner and tea and even passing the fridge seemed beyond what the human condition could reasonably expect.

A second lockdown came and went, as did Christmas and, as I write, a third lockdown is still in place. See 1, 2 and 3 above.

But it’s different now. The sky is clear and the sun is shining. Numbers contracting the virus are steadily going down, deaths are decreasing, numbers in hospital and in intensive care have declined, vaccines, despite the ups and downs of distribution, are being rolled out in huge numbers and their effect will soon be felt.

Suddenly we have so much to look forward to – visiting family members, meeting friends for a coffee, going out for the day. Soon the GAA football championship will be underway. Golf courses are open. Hairdressers will clip away to their hearts’ content. The breeze will carry the hum of children playing in a distant school yard. Simple, everyday activities and pleasures that took Covid-19 to remind us about how pivotal to our happiness the ordinary bits of life can be.

***And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.***

TS Eliot

So greet the morning with a smile and enjoy whatever the day offers. Take the crest of whatever wave is available and go the extra mile. Don’t heed the begrudgers and the naysayers, with their own agendas of misery and gloom. Soon all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

Julian of Norwich

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