With level three restrictions in place for Dublin, Édaein O' Connell explains why rural Ireland is concerned for the capital's escalating situation
Right now, Dublin's heart is breaking.
I write this from Kerry, where the government has decided to keep us playing on level two of the coronavirus game. Meanwhile, the capital must stay behind on level three.
Restaurant and bar owners in the capital have voiced their frustrations over the ban on indoor dining. They fear what these new restrictions will mean for their livelihoods. Though still breathing, the city is struggling. With communications lines becoming blurred, people are confused and exhausted.
The city is angry and scared.
As an outsider looking in, the situation is worrying. Like Dublin, rural areas are suffering. While we remain on an even level, there is always a chance we will slip. Dublin's immediate future could be ours too. There is real anxiety amongst people here. Lockdown almost broke businesses. While there was an upsurge in domestic tourism in counties such as Cork, Kerry, and anywhere else along the Wild Atlantic Way, many others didn't feel its effects.
Summer is a time usually filled with local festivals and initiatives that provide much needed economic boosts. These lifts can equate to more than 20% of an area's income in a year. As we face into a long winter, concerns are growing not just for economic reasons but also for health.
With cases increasing across the country, rural counties are anticipating a wave. The thought of returning to a lockdown situation is a harrowing one and nobody wishes for that to be the reality. Laois, Offaly and Kildare have all faced similar restrictions in recent weeks and showed us what a confinement scenario looks like.
Coronavirus has made people wary of one another. If the word comes through of crowds coming – as they did to Kerry during the summer months – people panic and always ask, "but what if they have it?"
The 'it' is the ghost that has followed us around since March. Our every move is dictated by 'it', and 'it' has upended our world. However, we understand the 'why' in this situation. We know it's to protect our most vulnerable and we will continue to do our part, but we also have to address the adverse effects this societal change has had.
At the start of the summer, I wrote about another crisis on our hands. In June, I had heard the devastating news of two suicides in my locality. As the weeks progressed, this number had risen to four. Five years ago, this was sadly a common occurrence. Thankfully in those five years, Ireland made strides in terms of mental health. A vital conversation started, and numbers declined.
The situation I speak of was a confined occurrence and there is no data to suggest that there has been an increase in suicides in Ireland during the pandemic, but it shows that we need to focus on people's well-being. It has been a traumatic experience for the country, and there are losses all around. People have lost loved ones. Businesses have closed. Many are speculating about what happens next?
Twitter is teaming with sad stories and widespread disaster. We can't escape it. It's reasonable to assume that the nation's mental health is deteriorating.
Rural Ireland now looks to Dublin and sees what could become of us over the coming months if the situation worsens. In regions where feelings of isolation and desolation quickly arise, this current outlook is concerning.
The general feeling is one of discontent with our current government. People want more to be done. But until then, we know what we need to do to avoid a situation like the capital's. We need to limit our social contacts, wear a mask and wash our hands. We need to constantly be aware of the threat and how our actions influence the outcome.
We are in this together.
We must remember that before more hearts begin to break.
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