I’m working from home today, attending a training course online via the wonders of technology. Don’t ask me how, though, I leave all the gadget stuff to Fionnuala who sighs, rolls her eyes and has the patience of a saint. Anyway, it saves me a commute into Belfast and seems to be the way things will be for the foreseeable future. People meeting in rooms is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, or at least until a vaccine is delivered.
Our ruling body, the Northern Ireland Executive, is now into its fourth day of meetings as the deadline for the latest tranche of restrictions expires at midnight. To date, the five ruling parties in the power sharing executive have been unable to reach agreement on whether to ease the current restrictions or extend them for another 1-2 week period. While the number of positive cases has fallen, it still remains at a much higher rate than during the summer.
At the minute there is a political impasse. I won’t bore you with the details but one side want the lockdown, or ‘circuit breaker’ as they are calling it, to be extended. They are worried that the virus is not under control. While positive cases are falling, our hospitals are at full capacity and the country is running out of intensive care beds. Their thinking is that any relaxation of restrictions now is still too soon and will lead to more hospital admissions and deaths.
The other side state that livelihoods as well as lives must be considered. They fear the economy will collapse unless businesses are allowed to reopen and some semblance of normality is resumed. The strain on mental health is also an issue as is the concern that other vital hospital treatments and procedures are being neglected as our National Health Service is focused on fighting the pandemic. Many lives will be lost to cancer and other undiagnosed illnesses as a result.
I can see both sides of the argument and it’s an unenviable position to be in. But our politicians have a long history of being unable to agree on anything. As they say in Northern Ireland if one side said a crow was black, their opponents would argue they were wrong and it was in fact white. That doesn’t help an increasingly frustrated and exasperated public though. We need cool heads, compromise and conciliation. This isn’t the time to argue a black crow white.