People need to be cautious of judging other people ‘in a hyper-critical’ way as the country continues to reopen, according to Professor Sam McConkey.
Fresh concerns about social distancing have arisen after videos and images of large crowds on some Dublin streets emerged yesterday evening.
Prof McConkey - head of the department of international health and tropical medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RSCI) - told On The Record that the response to such scenes tends to be exaggerated on social media.
He warned that social media tends to show people more opinions they already agree with - and that it's important to avoid 'false conclusions' based on what people are saying online.
He said: “There is this tendency to start judging others… I’m not sure this sort of hyper-critical judgmentalism will lead us forward in a socially cohesive way to a better place. I think we have to be gentle and gracious with our fellow citizens who have a different level of risk tolerance to us.
“You could say you could open up somewhere like Spike Island and people could drink there together, camp there… in certain locations of our country… I’m not sure if we want to go down that route with some areas that have different rules to others.
“Unfortunately, a lot of what people talk about doesn’t always correspond to concrete reality.
"People’s fear and emotions drive the passion and spirit of the reaction, particularly on Twitter and Facebook... [which] tend to be very divisive, polarising and extremist.”
He noted it's hard to wear masks or face coverings when eating or drinking, so people should continue to keep socially distant when they can.
Prof McConkey said we need to gather more robust data about how pubs and restaurants generally are handling reopening, and what the situation inside reopened premises is like.
He explained that pubs aren't just regulated by licencing laws, but those which operate as restaurants also need to follow food safety rules.
He suggested: “Pubs are employers, and the staff there have a right to safe employment.
“There’s a very robust regulatory band that pubs work in - and that’s good. I think this cautious first step in opening our pubs is very good and important.”
Prof McConkey said there’s a need to find new ways of “enjoying our lives”, such as greater space for outdoor seating and more waiter service when it comes to serving drinks.
He observed: “We may need to put up a marquee or awning… put tables outside… and we also need to pray for good weather, because it works much better in the sun...I accept it doesn’t work as well in the rain!”