Editorial – Defeating the coronavirus won’t be a victory if we forget those most at risk

A photo of the COVID-19 virus as seen under a microscope.

In the last week we’ve seen the rapidness at which the coronavirus has been able to spread across the country. But this is just the start. We are at the start of what is likely to be a months-long — if not longer — process of combating the spread of the virus. The EU has taken what in normal circumstances would be the extraordinary step of essentially closing its borders. And the European Central Bank (ECB) has approved a €750bn stimulus package for EU countries. On a more local level, people must practise social distancing and self-isolation if appropriate.

But for those stuck in refugee camps on Europe’s borders and in direct provision centres across Ireland, solutions to tackling the spread of the illness are, quite simply, beyond them. The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) has highlighted this fact. How are people in direct provision supposed to self-isolate when infected with the virus considering the cramped conditions they live in? 

When you have cases of multiple people sharing a single bedroom the outcome is not difficult to predict. Add to this that in some cases the private companies operating direct provision centres are still forcing residents to congregate in the canteen for their meals. To be frank, it appears as if people in direct provision are going to be left to fend for themselves. It’s not the first time the government has turned a blind eye to them. And it won’t be the last. For now though, one group is raising money in order to provide disinfectant packs for those in direct provision (Donate here). 

Hopefully the worst doesn’t come to pass. If it does, no area of the country will be unaffected. To stop that from happening, it means coming together and working as a united front. Regardless of ones ethnic, national, or religious background, we must cooperate. That’s the only way we will make it through this. 

It means doing all we can to make sure vulnerable people can self-isolate. And it means that people in direct provision aren’t left to face this by themselves while racists use the virus as an excuse to target minorities. To do otherwise means abandoning all sense of decency and morality at a time when it is needed the most. 

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – Felipe Esquivel Reed