Irish Rural Link
Covid-19 in Ireland means a radically different way of living and a complete change to day-to-day life. The people most at risk from a health perspective are now "cocooned" in their homes and are strongly advised not to leave them. The news of the spread of the virus in European countries such as Italy, Spain and France shocked communities so much that they were intent on observing all of the directives on the curtailment of movement. At the time of writing, on 7 April, Ireland had a total of 5364 identified cases and sadly 174 deaths. The median age is currently 79. The measures taken by the government are similar to those of many other countries around the world: social or physical distancing, closure of all non-essential businesses and curtailment of public transport. Of course, the consequences of these measures is a huge spike in unemployment, which has now almost reached 20% from a low of less than 4%. While the emphasis is strongly on fighting the disease, the challenges facing many people when it is over will be a true test of all governments and the EU.
The fight against Covid-19 has two pillars:
1. The full mobilisation of the health sector, with many medical professionals returning from abroad to help.
2. The mobilisation of local volunteers to help the thousands of people at risk, who must not leave their homes.
Clearly, the first approach is intended to ensure that people do not have to go to hospital. That means that people are being asked to stay at home. However, it was recognised early on that some people need support. The solution lay in building a partnership between the government, the community and voluntary organisations, so that they could agree on a joint programme of work to provide this support. The Community Call programme is a partnership between national government, local authorities, state agencies and all parts of civil society. Its aim is to ensure that all people have ready access to basic services, including the delivery of groceries and medicine. Civil society organisations specialising in areas such as urban and rural affairs, disability, older people and vulnerable communities, are working at the coalface and making life a lot easier for their communities. At the core of these activities are the thousands of people who have put their names down as volunteers, all willing to help. It is proving to be a strong partnership, which should be maintained long after this is over.