Uncharted Waters

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A Bureaucrat’s Delight

The sight of convoys of Italian Army trucks carrying the dead victims of the COVID- 19 virus from Bergamo in the middle of the night will always remain in my memory as will refrigerated trailers being used to store the dead bodies in New York. Who could ever have foreseen such circumstances?

A sense of foreboding almost verging on panic during my first two weeks of lockdown in Ireland slowly adjusted to recognise the new norm of life in a pandemic. No one should dare to criticise the Government for the steps taken to contain the virus. They didn’t ‘Run to the Bunker’ like some famous politicians did in the past at time of crisis. Ireland seems to have come through the very worst of it and the financial supports from the Government to completely locked down businesses keeps away the deep pain taken during the recession. Truly, we are all in this together and the chances of survival are much enhanced, thank you Government.

My concerns now are with the efforts being made to restrain any re-emergence of the Coronavirus. While we are all in this together, cracks have started to emerge, particularly with the brilliant sunshine attracting people to beaches where people partied and left their rubbish lying around, showing no sign of restraint. Given that our civic authorities could do no more than try to move these people on, what could have been done?

Now, however, those that design and enforce the myriad of rules for business appear to be going into a halcyon period, businesses which the Government has done so much to protect, are now faced with an onslaught from these bureaucrats. Employers are required, under the protocol, to put together a reopening plan. Among other things, they have to ensure strict adherence to social distancing, provide hand sanitiser, monitor their employees’ temperatures and create designated isolation areas for workers who might fall ill over the course of the working day.

Workplaces are supposed to designate a “lead worker representative, charged with ensuring that COVID-19 measures are strictly adhered to in their place of work”, according to the Government notice. Under the plan, the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) can order businesses to shut down

operations if they do not comply with the rules. Business owners do not have to notify Gardaí or the HSA before reopening, nor will the HSA have to pre-approve a business’s back-to-work plan.

June 2020 Out Now

I don’t have any problem with insisting that we are required to regularly wash our hands, use sanitizers and generally use our heads. However, common sense seems not to be the most common of instincts at times, just witness what’s happening at our beaches? To require us to become semi-paramedics in diagnosing potential carriers of COVID-19 is to my mind stretching the duties of employers. Be that as it may, what happens if we fail to detect or alternatively misdiagnose and send someone home? This has all the potential of becoming a legislative minefield and fodder for the Courts. If an issue arises, the bureaucrats will ask to see the firm’s COVID-19 Policy and I wonder who will adjudicate on this being adequate, just like the issues truck operators and owners have with Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness.

Testing debacle. In addition, I understand that taking a person’s temperature and the information gained is subject to GDPR regulations. We are indeed in uncharted territory. JERRY KIERSEY