IT’S welcome news that the Executive has rowed back on its crazy plan to give everyone a five-day Christmas Covid pass. Having a one-day relaxation at such a dangerous time as this is still sub-optimal, but at the same time we recognise the unfortunate reality that a gesture had to be made to placate the familiar cynics and sceptics both in and out of government.
As soon as that was out of the way we were assailed with more depressingly familiar breaking of ranks, and it came as no surprise to anyone that the DUP are to the fore in the latest attempts to scupper, or hinder, efforts to put in place a response to the deepening crisis that is serious and robust enough to have the desired effect.
With every flight that lands here, with every ferry that docks, the severity of the new lockdown that we will inevitably face in February increases exponentially.
The outrageous decision by Education Minister Peter Weir to impose an inflexible return-to-school regime without due regard to health experts and educationalists is bad enough, but his dogmatic decision to press ahead with the transfer test – which, remember, is not even an official test – has added an element of class conflict to an already fractious environment.
But even worse than that was the decision by the DUP, Alliance and the UUP not to close down air and ferry traffic to the north from Britain in the wake of Dublin’s decision to do just that. Since the start of this pandemic, the greatest tool at our disposal has been our island status and yet, shamefully, it has been underexploited to an almost criminal degree.
And why has it not been deployed to the same degree that has made the island country of New Zealand the world exemplar of Covid policy? Quite simply because unionists are more interested in their position within an increasingly fragile United Kingdom than with protecting the health and safety of the people of these six counties.
With every flight that lands here, with every ferry that docks, the severity of the new lockdown that we will inevitably face in February increases exponentially. Those EU states that implemented a ban on travel from Britain did so with stunning rapidity when the shocking statistics about the spread of the new Covid variant in Britain began to emerge. Here, as ever, stalling and excuses are the order of the day.
The DUP, Alliance and the UUP argue there is no need for a ban on travel from Britain because strict tiering restrictions are already in place in the worst-affected areas and people living there are unlikely to travel because of the restrictions that apply. That argument is so threadbare it barely merits a response, but for the record we should point out that people in the highest tier areas have already been travelling in large numbers in defiance of the regulations. We have seen the pictures with our own eyes. What these parties have effectively done is to place our safety at the mercy of the other people’s decisions.
As we look at the dizzying speed of the spread in Britain, we see that closing the airports and the ferry terminals is not an option, it is an imperative.