The last taboo?

d'Lëtzebuerger Land vom 18.12.2020

Once we can finally leave the pandemic behind, everyone will have a story to tell. Unfortunately, ours will be a particularly gruesome one as we have lost our mum during this dark period. Three hospitalizations for a failing heart within four months made us understand that the end was near, but circumstances appeared to change even more brutally when she caught Covid-19 on the geriatric ward.

She declined abruptly, and we were left with a lot of unanswered questions. There is also a deep irony in the fact that she had been shielding at home for months: no visitors, no carers in the morning, only to be trapped by the virus in what should be a safe environment.

We all have to accept that things go wrong, but policies or failings need to be questioned. This is what happens openly in most countries, but usually not in lovely Luxembourg. As a result, rumours have spread like wildfire in the context of the current sanitary crisis: Have there actually been over sixty infections in one nursing home in Esch? Does the management of a care home in Luxembourg city really ask families not to mention Covid-19 as the cause of death in the Wort obituary as they dread bad publicity?

Yes, the government handled the first wave of infections well, but their handling of the current situation has been more than shambolic. A bad imitation of what Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and co. did or did not do in England first time round. I remember our minister of Health say with full confidence during one of those ominous press conferences: “Mir kennen de Virus lo besser”. So why all that dithering before stricter measures were finally announced? Why the waiting game? Precious time was lost while the government were granting the virus a free run. Suddenly the term “black” in “Black Friday” was given a rather macabre note! Oh, and let’s open the shops on Sundays, too, so people can hit them in droves and forget about the crisis. Cynics might argue that as a customer you are invited to literally shop until you drop these days.

And then, crucially, how well do we really know the virus? When I talked to the doctor at the hospital, I saw that he was unable to explain how there could be a cluster on his ward, a cluster that they could not control. “We are following the official protocol”, I was told, which, as you can imagine, was no consolation at all.

Does the general public have access to that protocol? I wonder. Or is the same type of secretiveness at work here, too? Will we ever be told how many people caught the virus in a hospital environment? Why, for example, were two elderly patients with pre-existing health conditions who were sharing a room made to sit at the same table for meals day after day, while restaurants had to put in separations between tables as long as they stayed open? Why are there no fixed separations between the two beds in a room?

Is the protocol too lax? Or, even worse, are there fewer rules because the virus hits the elderly hardest? As if they were worth less consideration, though, in fact, they are us in twenty-thirty-or-forty years’ time.

Finally, I would like to refer to a comment the minister of Health made when addressing journalists a few months ago. I was shocked by her insensitive, even crass remark at the time and am even more so now: “Et bleift spannend”. were the words she used to sum up the general situation between the first two Covid waves. I think she should have apologised the following day. After all, this is a pandemic, not the latest episode of The Undoing. And the dying are real people. The more vulnerable they are, the more protection they deserve.

Janine Goedert
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