ONE-WAY PRAYER: FIRST STEPS INTO THE ‘NEW NORMAL’ – By Brian Rowan

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AN ESCAPE FROM THIS VIRUS WILL DEMAND PLANNING AND PATIENCE

In Holywood the local parish priest Fr Stephen McBrearty told me they were queuing to get in: “All in a line like Tescos,” he quipped.

He was talking about the small number of parishioners waiting at the door as St Colmcille’s opened on Tuesday for private prayer; this made possible by the decision of the Stormont Executive at the start of the week to ease some of the lockdown restrictions.

On Wednesday, I followed the instructions and the arrows on a walk into what is being called the ‘new normal’.

My few moments inside that church, observing the spacing and the places cordoned off, were a reminder of what has changed and is changing.

The singer Imelda May reminded us in a recent poem recital on RTE’s ‘The Late Late Show’ that there are bits of ‘before’ – once taken for granted – that are now gone forever.

Covid-19 is forcing us to think and live differently.

How comfortable would any of us be in a crowded space when we get to whatever is the far side of this virus?

THE STEPS TO THAT PLACE NEED CAREFUL CONSIDERATION 

The above tweet on Tuesday was an observation.

A walk inside a supermarket with all the directional arrows and markers of social distancing that, for some shoppers, might as well not have been there.

The lifting of some restrictions is not a signal that the threat of Covid-19 has gone.

I was reminded on Tuesday evening that our shop workers are also on a frontline; at work having to dodge those who clearly now believe that social distancing is optional.

Others shared their shopping experiences in the comments below that tweet:

  • I have to run that particular weekly gauntlet tomorrow and can’t say I’m feeling good about it;
  • Working in retail I can say most people have thought it optional from day 1;
  • The supermarket experience wasn’t such a good example of social distancing at start of lockdown;
  • Today out getting stuff I thought who opened the doors!!!

THE DANGER IS THE WRONG POLITICAL MESSAGE WILL OPEN TOO MANY DOORS

It is when an inch becomes a mile and we race towards danger.

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill have begun to present a same-page/same-pace message, and I have begun to believe that politics here can work; but none of us should take that for granted.

Behind the scenes there are battles going on at Executive level about what should happen and when in terms of the steps out of this lockdown.

So far, compromises have been possible.

There are those who want more to happen and sooner.

They should wise up and watch their words and think about how damaging the wrong message could be.

The challenge is how to avoid a second surge or spike.

On Wednesday health minister Robin Swann told us again that Covid-19 will be with us for a long time.

He accepted that the restrictions are not an easy ask, but urged people to move at the pace set out in the Executive’s published pathway.

An escape from this virus and the lockdown will demand both planning and patience.

There are right times to go – and there are wrong times.

The working out of all of that is life and death.


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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process and contributed chapters to 'Reporting the Troubles' and 'Brexit and Northern Ireland: Bordering on Confusion'.

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