It is a confusing time not least for followers of the Stormont Health Committee (see video below, meeting starts at 15 minutes) which was to be called over the summer at the behest of the chair but which emerged on Thursday 3 September quietly, without the chairman, to meet the Minister and his advisers.
Billy Grant, the liberal unionist who set up our health service against the wishes of Basil Brooke and Lord Londonderry, and who wanted to set up integrated education, against the wishes of the church, would be as confused as someone coming back from Zante or going into one’s local bar after a holiday in the sun as to what has been happening.
The virus has recredesced in bigger numbers but with less severity and deaths in the midst of Covid fatique, except in Craigavon.
Schools have gone back with lots of queries and another ‘Nightingale’ step-down centre is planned; why not name it after Miss Robb who ran RVH or Kate O’Hanlon, its casualty sister during the Troubles?
Few of us remember Florence Nightingale...or what Sevastopol Street is named after.
Without Chair Colm Gildernew (SF), the Minister was like someone with a taller podium as praise was heaped on him even by Colin McGrath (SDLP) of Co Down.
Gerry Carroll (PBP) asked about the College of Nursing’s pay claim for 12.5 per cent with the Minister being supportive — but forgetting that his department broke from the pay award last time, had a strike and had not paid strike pay fearing the consequences.
Órlaithí Flynn (SF) wanted to know the criteria as to where testing centres were located and referenced reports that some people had been offered tests in the Isle of Man and Scotland!
Dr Scally (Bristol) has advocated a one-island approach and maybe we need a one-islands approach as each of the 'countries' following the science which tends to suit them at any point in time is leading to all the differences and the confusions.
It would be wiser to follow the World Health Organisation advice instead of using their data to put some countries on a black list off the travel corridor and allowing that to vary.
If you fly into Bristol from Zante you may drive home to Cardiff but if you fly into Cardiff you have to quarantine in the valleys for two week. Confused? Try this - the BBC now put the Tricolour over Norn Ireland when referring to Covid restrictions. Perhaps they are rehearsing for new borders with Brexit?
We are at a time when we should be taking stock of what went wrong through an inquiry and not a rapid learning initiative which does not get to the fundamentals like reform of our public health system.
This is important as we approach vaccinations with a volunteer portal already on the Public Health Agency website.
There are over 170 vaccines with 50 approaching phase four testing and regulatory approval. The Chinese SinoVax is being given and Britain has bought 50 million doses of four vaccines which may have to be given alongside influenza vaccine.
The immunity may last four months and more than one dose may be needed for a public which has its sceptics. Lets hope that the debacle of Personal Protection Equipment distribution is not followed by something equally poorly organised when it comes to Covid Immunisation and Vaccinations.
Dr Michael Donnelly MB, BCh, BAO is a clinical epidemiologist.