Philip O’Neill is a Slugger reader from Belfast
I have just spent 40 mins on a bus journey into Belfast. Since the start of the pandemic, I have not used public transport as I had concerns as to so many people from different ‘bubbles’ being so close together in a very confined space. I soon recognized the bus journey was a small but representative microcosm of our society. Fewer than half the people on the bus were wearing masks, some had clearly got colds and sniffles rubbing their nose with their hands etc, you get the picture, however, even these signs didn’t make a difference to them.
I contacted Translink to be advised that while masks are mandatory the driver does not have the authority to enforce this, they can only advise. The driver on my bus did not advise anyone, and in a way why should they, why should enforcement be left to someone in a very vulnerable position and probably on a low wage, surely enforcement needs to be more organised with people given proper training.
Enforcement is an Executive decision, and like any decision it needs to be implementable (think I just made that word up). If it is not then the policy is folly, it is nonsense and not worth the significant amount of paper it is written on.
Same with the Covid passport, a great policy made totally ineffective by the addition of lateral flow tests, which are so easy to forge, as an acceptable alternative.
These policies are designed to protect us, to help limit the spread of disease, to limit the impact on the NHS and to help the economy. All good reasons to have a sound policy in place.
Has this survived first contact, I am afraid not. Mixed messaging from politicians has not helped. An afternoon in Belfast shows clearly the situation facing most. To get into the Christmas Market, which is in the open air, you need to show your vaccine passport. However, we went into two different pubs, including one where we got food and were never asked for our passport once. We were never advised to wear masks and most staff were also not wearing masks. So for those considering a safe shopping trip or for Christmas drinks, please think twice. Pubs and restaurants are not safe, people are not wearing masks, vaccine passports are not being checked and I don’t believe staff are Covid aware.
To help address these issues we basically have two options, fully implement the policies by making mask-wearing and passports mandatory, like many countries are currently doing or we save ourselves money, hassle and political embarrassment by telling everyone to make up their own minds regarding personal safety and hope that herd immunity kicks in.
The current position is not working, it will not prevent the spread of this virus, it will not help the NHS, it will not help those vulnerable in our society, in fact it does the opposite by lulling people into a very false sense of security.
This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.