It was with great fanfare last weekend that Fine Gael, the largest party in the coalition government, announced that Ireland had overtaken the UK in fully vaccinating the adult population against Covid-19…
Prior to this landmark day, you could be forgiven for thinking the UK didn’t have a vaccine rollout at all. In the early days of 2021, as the vaccines became available across the world, an eerie silence fell across Ireland’s mainstream media, politicians and all political parties as it became clear the UK was head and shoulders above us as we lurched from one disaster to the next.
We waited patiently, like the good Europeans we are for the EU to approve, purchase and distribute adequate supplies of the vaccine, while our neighbours roared ahead, protecting their citizens as if lives depended on it.
Whether it was envy, embarrassment or the pain that British landowners brought on our forefathers that prevented any mention of the UK vaccine success, the memo was sent and adhered to by all the good and influential people in Dublin 4 (the affluent, upper-class area of the city) – “Don’t Mention The Brits!”
Now that we’ve finally got our act together and have managed to implement an impressively smooth and efficient system, we are allowed, once again, to compare ourselves to the UK – and the stats don’t lie. Ireland has triumphantly fully vaccinated 72.4 per cent of our 3.7 million adults and the UK lags behind with only 72.1 per cent of their 66.8 million adults fully protected. No matter how you slice it, we’re winning!
Whilst nightclubs and pubs from Birmingham to London are filled to capacity, we’re one step ahead, having introduced a vaccine passport that allows only the fully vaccinated to avail of table service only in our reduced capacity pubs and restaurants – and it’s every bit as wonderful as it sounds.
As you enter a restaurant or pub, you scan the QR code on your vaccine passport before presenting your photo ID which is checked against the name on the vaccine passport. You are then handed a form on which to write your name and telephone number, before you are led to a table where you can remove your mask and order a drink. It all feels a bit cumbersome to begin with, but after five pints it’s much easier to pretend that it’s almost like 2019.
The pubs and restaurants reopened here on July 26th. I naturally spent the entire week in different bars, and with the exception of my local pub – who have no need to check my name on my photo ID – every establishment I entered followed the rules. And it’s the rules that are stopping me from venturing out again until some sort of normality returns.
I’m willing to believe that they are necessary, I’m willing to believe that they are temporary, I’m even willing to believe that there’s no government department keeping track of how many times I enter a pub. But there’s no joy for me having to remain seated and trying to catch the attention of the bar staff for a drink. There’s no craic if you don’t have the option to ‘budge up’ and let two old lads share your table because there’s no seats left in the pub.
I long for the days when an impromptu drink after work turned into a mighty session. Drunkenly putting the world to rights with friends. Dancing with strangers. Having fun in 2021 involves so many small rules but however necessary they may be, it’s just not worth the effort.
Of course there is now talk of the UK following us down this road. With cases falling and the population almost vaccinated it seems the only sensible course of action. The Irish media will no doubt rejoice. They will copy and paste government press releases into their publications. Their loyal, unquestioning readers will discover that, once again we are winning.
We locked down earlier, harder and longer than the UK – winning!
While the UK were vaccinating their citizens, we were still waiting for EU approval of the life saving shots – winning!
We’re ahead on vaccines, vaccine passports and Eurovision wins… anyone fancy a pint?