Someday the world will be free of the coronavirus. Then, we will glance backward at these years of misery inflicted by virions with spike proteins that have struck down millions of people and held social life in its grip. Much will be debated about the origins of the virus and the rapidity of its spread around the world, a transmission that shows how closely interconnected we have become due to modern transportation technology. There is no going backward from the processes that will continue to shrink the globe, bringing us closer and closer together, bringing other viruses and diseases greater and greater host populations.
The global loss of life and disruption to our daily lives resulting from the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented in living memory. We have learned through tragedy that we have a shared, globalised vulnerability common to all humanity. We are learning how we, as a matter of urgency, must make changes to improve resilience in a range of essential areas: employment, healthcare, housing. We have been forced to recognise our dependence on our public-sector frontline workers, and the state’s broader role in mitigating this crisis and saving lives. The coronavirus has magnified the scale of our existing social crises and has proved, if ever proof were required, how government can act decisively when the will is there.
Some 2,000 beds, nine laboratories and thousands of staff have been drafted into the public system, Leo Varadkar said at a press conference today. Speaking at the same press conference, Health Minister Simon Harris said “there can be no room for public versus private” when responding to the Covid-19 crisis. “We must of course have equality of treatment, patients with this virus will be treated for free, and they’ll be treated as part of a single, national hospital service. “For the duration of this crisis the State will take control of all private hospital facilities and manage all of the resources for the common benefit of all of our people. There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic,” Harris said. A further 219 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland last night, bringing the total number of cases here to 1,125.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health, social and economic crisis. Historical comparisons are few, particularly in recent decades. This tragedy constitutes nothing less than a trial for all humanity. The two meanings of the French word “épreuve” captures the dual significance of what we now confront: épreuve in the sense of an ordeal, an immense and painful undertaking, but also a test, an evaluation, or a judgment.