Local businessman fears for economy and public health if we don’t ‘crush’ Covid now

A Roscommon businessman has appealed to local politicians to lobby for a change to Ireland’s approach in the battle against Covid-19.

Everyone has an opinion on how Ireland as a nation is dealing with Covid-19, and that includes local businessman Larry O’Gara. In a letter to the Roscommon People, Mr. O’Gara outlined his concerns about our current approach.

Mr. O’Gara, a well-known nightclub and bar owner, does not believe that the economy should be reopened yet. He says businesses in Roscommon and throughout the country might reopen in the coming weeks and months – but that many of them have no chance of survival if a policy of ‘living with Covid’ is persisted with.

On the health front, Mr. O’Gara says one expert has warned that over 40,000 people in this country could die from Covid-19 over the next four to five years if Ireland adopts a ‘containment’ approach.

While he thinks the Government and health experts have acquitted themselves well up to this point, Mr. O’Gara says he is nonetheless deeply worried about the lifting of restrictions, even on a phased basis.

The businessman says he has been greatly influenced by infectious disease experts who are advising that countries should try to “crush Covid-19” rather than “settling for living with the virus”.

In particular, he cites the advice of infectious disease expert, Professor Gerry Killeen, who is in favour of Ireland closing its borders, widespread wearing of face masks, and restrictions remaining in place. The Roscommon man also quotes another expert who said on TV on Tuesday night that “the scientific community wants this virus eradicated now”.

Mr. O’Gara wrote: “Personally, I feel we need to be very cautious about reopening the economy. Of course we all want to return to normal as soon as possible. I’m a long time in business, so I certainly feel that way too.

“However, the economy won’t recover until people feel safe. If we don’t crush the virus now, we will face a second wave of Covid-19, and then further waves. By reopening the economy and lifting restrictions, are we gambling with people’s lives?”

Mr. O’Gara says he has seen at first-hand a small number of people in Roscommon not observing social distancing. This greatly concerns him.

“If we don’t crush the virus, as opposed to just flattening the curve, more waves of it will come, and then we will be back to square one, with restrictions imposed again.

“In relations to businesses, we have to be realistic. Hairdressers and bars and restaurants can reopen, taxi drivers can return to work, but will the business be there for them? We need to complete the job now. We need to get to a place where businesses can open up when they have the prospect of being viable”.

Mr. O’Gara said he is speaking out now because he was sorry he hadn’t spoken out during the recession of 2008.

“At that time, every business person knew that bailing out the banks was a disaster. But the government wouldn’t listen”.

12 years on, he says politicians are not infectious disease experts, and they need to be wary of a rush to reopen the economy, wary too of vested interests.

“As a country, we’re planning to live with the virus instead of crushing it. But there’s no point in locking the front door and leaving the windows of the house open. Where we are at now is not normal. We can’t go to football matches, we can’t hold our grandchildren.

“We can crush this virus, or live with it. The Government is saying ‘live with it’ – but if we live with it, it’s devastation”.