Ireland keeps Covid-19 at bay with proactive strategy

By Javier Aja

Dublin, Apr 21 (efe-epa).- With fewer than 800 deaths and currently more recovered patients than infected persons, Leo Varadkar’s management of the coronavirus outbreak in the Republic of Ireland has gathered much support and sits in stark contrast to the United Kingdom’s approach where criticism has been mounting.

At the beginning of the outbreak, towards the end of February, both leaders faced the onset of the Covid-19 crisis in divergent contexts.

Boris Johnson had won the December 2019 general election with a landslide victory, while Varadkar lost the elections held on 8 February, despite the fact that he faced the ballot with a booming economy as his legacy.

In the shocking ballot, part of the Irish electorate withdrew its support to Fine Gael over criticism the liberal-conservative suit had neglected social policies.

Many blamed Varadkar and his government for the housing crisis and the decline of public services, including the healthcare system which has so far resisted the onslaught of the coronavirus.

Of Ireland’s 4.7 million citizens, 769 have died, 16,671 infections have been recorded of which 6,669 are still active and 9,233 people have recovered, according to the most recent data.

The picture across the Irish Sea is grimmer.

As of Wednesday, 18,100 people have died in hospitals since the pandemic struck the UK, a country with almost 67 million inhabitants, of which 133,495 have tested positive for Covid-19.

One of the main reasons why the data is disparate is that Dublin began to take measures before London did.

The number of daily tests carried out in Ireland increased rapidly and the public soon became aware of the gravity of the epidemic which reinforced the implementation of social distancing.

One example of the rapid implementation of measures occurred on the 2 March, just three days after the first coronavirus case was detected, when Google, which has its European headquarters in Dublin, asked its 8,000 employees to work from home the next day after a staff member was reported to have flu-like symptoms.

Around the same time, Johnson proudly told reporters he had been in a hospital with coronavirus patients shaking hands with everyone.

Three weeks later, he tested positive for Covid-19 and after a stint in intensive care he continues to recover from the disease at home.

On 26 February, 15 days before the first death was recorded, the Irish Rugby Federation (IRFU) cancelled the Ireland Italy Six Nations Championship match due to be played in Ireland on 7 March, following government recommendations.

On 9 March, with 24 confirmed Covid-19 cases, the government cancelled festivities for Ireland’s patron saint known as Saint Patrick’s Day.

The event would have brought together more than half a million people on 17 March, many of them tourists, for a popular parade through the capital.

Far from creating alarm, the proactive measures raised awareness among the population and social distancing norms and isolation began to set in naturally, according to experts.

While Ireland closed its borders, the United Kingdom kept them open.

Thousands of Atlético de Madrid supporters from Spanish capital filled Liverpool’s Anfield stadium on 11 March for the Champions League clash.

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