A few short days ago, the nation’s gallant Minister for Health strode purposely out of a meeting with his officials, sleeves rolled up, frown artfully affixed to his forehead, and announced to the waiting public that he had a plan to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus: He was going to cancel a rugby match.
It mattered not that at the time he was speaking, he had not even picked up the phone to the IRFU. A day later, the announcement of the cancellation was downgraded to mere recommendation. Harris would not directly cancel the match, but he was recommending that the IRFU did so.
In the 24 hours or so between the announcement and the follow up, at least seven planeloads of people arrived into Ireland from Italy.
It appears at this point that nobody took a list of their names, or tracked their whereabouts.
One person, infected with the virus, came off one of those planes and is now in isolation in a Belfast hospital.
At the time of writing, nobody knows how the sick person got from Dublin Airport to Belfast. Bus? Train? Rental car? Taxi? Anybody’s guess. But it’s at least a reasonable supposition that somebody got on a bus or a train and coughed and sneezed the whole way to Belfast.
The virus has a 27-day incubation window. It’s very possible that a whole bunch of people are now carrying the virus who do not know it, and will not know it for a month.
By the time many of them realise it, it may be too late, and other busses, and trains, and schools, and workplaces may become giant petri dishes for China’s hottest new export.
It is an absolute imperative that the sick person’s movements be forensically traced, and the route they took into Ireland, and while they were in Ireland, identified.
The people they came into contact with should be warned. Ideally, those people should be told to quarantine themselves for a month.
There has been, to date, no such action from the department of health.
It is perfectly possible, three months from now, that there will be thousands of coronavirus cases in Ireland. Many of these cases will require hospitalisation, and isolation.