The National Public Health Emergency Team is expected to come forward later this week with their recommendations to the government of Ireland on developing a reopening strategy. Though a speedy return to normalcy seems unlikely, this might be an important first step in getting the country back on track.
The pandemic and lockdowns combined have had devastating effects on the Irish economy, resulting in substantial job losses and a spike in unemployment. Pauses to required monthly repayments on loans and mortgages were instated by banks to help borrowers. The country was sent into a recession, which was officially announced in September. Recovery would be long and arduous no matter what, but the inefficiencies of the government’s policies aimed at preventing the spread are likely exacerbating the issue.
For one, Ireland’s lockdowns have been described as some of the strictest in the world, perhaps even a bit excessive. Until 12 April, a Level-5 lockdown had been in effect for more than a hundred days. This entailed restricting citizens’ movements to just five kilometers from their homes, in-person schooling, and more. For now, students can return to school, construction projects can resume, and citizens can move up to twenty kilometers from their homes. The negative repercussions the lockdowns continue to have on Irish business and public life are immediately apparent.
Further, they may be relatively ineffective. Despite the strictness of Ireland’s lockdowns, the outlook for long-term suppression of the virus is dubious at best, due to the government’s lacking vaccine rollout plan. Its vaccination rate has fallen behind others in the Eurozone, like France, Germany, and Italy. The National Immunization and Advisory Committee (NIAC) only recently okay-ed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and softened the restrictions on the AstraZeneca vaccine. The slowness of the government’s rollout has been reinforced with the recent announcement of a shortfall in the delivery of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with the originally stated 40,800 doses likely to be closer to around 26,000. Despite this, the government still hopes to have roughly 80% of Ireland’s adult population vaccinated by the end of June; time will tell if they are able to reach this milestone.
All told, the pandemic and the government’s efforts to contain it have had severe repercussions for Ireland’s economy and populace. Despite being in-and-out of lockdowns, the country has fallen behind in key areas like vaccine rollout. It is likely that the recovery process will be long and arduous no matter what, but this announcement could start it out on the right foot.