2 April 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard


Martial language has inevitably intruded into the reportage and commentary generated by the ubiquitous Covid-19 pandemic.

Those providing medical care and manning essential services are described as being on the front line, while many of the messages from the Government and State agencies urging the population to adhere to the strictures and practices deemed mandatory to stemming the Coronavirus tide carry a subliminal message evocative of the iconic World War I ‘Your Country Needs You’ recruitment poster in which the pointing finger of Lord Kitchener prodded many an onlooker into enlisting in the battle.

There are some very good reasons for resisting the framing of the Covid-19 emergency in warlike terms. One of the wicked things that war can bring in its wake is the compromising of individual freedoms, and too much bellicose emphasis would rightly make people resistant to adopting some of the restrictions on movement and association which expert medical advice insists is essential at this time.

These are sacrifices the vast majority of our population are making willingly and diligently in the interest of the common good, temporary hardships rather than the giving away of fundamental rights and entitlements. And wartime too can carry with it a hardening of the human heart – it would be deeply damaging indeed if we grew inured to the suffering of others or insensitive to the fear, anxiety, loneliness and despair that are circulating in the prevailing atmosphere with as much potential virulence as the virus itself these days.

As much as we must mind our mental as well as our physical health these days we must also be mindful to safeguard the defining features of our humanity – this is a time to be kind to ourselves and to be kind to others, a time to propagate love and compassion and spread some healing light to others even as we preserve a healthy physical distance from them. But if we are not in a war, we are certainly in a fight, and it is a fight for our lives. By this we do not simply mean the preservation of our existence.

The measures we are all taking to avoid contracting or spreading the virus are life-preserving, and while the timing and degree of the preventative steps which our own and other governments around the world are taking can be argued and debated, the need for us to adhere to the prevailing medical wisdom in order to mitigate as far as possible the ravages of Covid-19 are self-evident and unavoidable to embrace.

But these measures have wrought fundamental changes to the patterns of our daily lives and how we associate and interact with our fellow human beings.

The pandemic will run its course, with the worst almost certainly yet to come, but when this baleful shadow clears from our country and our planet we will be left with a human landscape in need of restoration.

The current situation is placing an extraordinary strain on our national economy. A phenomenal level of investment is being made by the Government to ensure that lifelines are extended to businesses and their employees, and there will be considerable and unavoidable implications from these essential emergency measures as the process of restoring the functioning of the economy begins to gather pace in the post-pandemic environment.

The current time and the weeks to come are extremely important ones for the process of future recovery. Businesses that have had to close or which have had closure forced upon them should be making plans now for the time of resuscitation. They should carefully consider the many support options which the Government and its agencies are making available and, essentially, they should do everything possible to preserve their linkages with their employees.

Of particular importance in this context is the Business Continuity Voucher which can be accessed through the Local Enterprise Office network and which was unveiled by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys TD in recent days as a means of businesses accessing the form of consultancy expertise necessary to develop survival and recovery strategies.

This is an unparalleled situation for businesses to find themselves in, and one particularly worrying for the SME sector – the bedrock of the economy in Co Monaghan – which would not normally have either the in-house knowledge or the access to outside advice to guide them through such tempestuous waters.

The opportunity to access informed guidance and objective profession insight at this time could be vital to the preservation of dozens of small Co Monaghan enterprises and hundreds if not thousands of jobs – it is one that all SMEs in our circulation area impacted by the Covid-19 emergency should consider availing of.

Lending agencies and financial institutions with power and influence over the direction of the wider economy also need to exercise cool heads, measured judgement and some basic common sense – and basic human decency – at this time.

A recession seems inevitable, but history teaches that when recessions are sparked by events akin to global medical emergencies such as the current one, the recovery can be equally as sharp and sustained as the downturn.

Now is the time for the powerhouses of the financial sector to accept their own share of the prevailing pain, and do all that is within their command to ensure that the anxiety of mortgage holders and those who experience adversely altered financial circumstances as a result of the pandemic is not unduly exacerbated.

When the crisis is over, we will have to get used again to ordinary human contact and perhaps its enforced absence will bequeath us the legacy of an enhanced appreciation of the things that really matter in life, such as family, friendship and companionship.

Each day of the pandemic sees the prevailing gloom penetrated by bright rays of altruistic humanity shone by individuals and organisations finding ways in which to protect and assist the vulnerable, encouraging evidence that we should emerge from this very real fight for our lives – not just our existence by our way of life and how we live in harmony with others – with our humanity and our dignity enhanced rather than compromised.

We should all do our own little bit each day to ensure that this is the post-pandemic landscape we step out into when the fury of the storm we are currently living through is spent.

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