Eamon Dunphy“There’s no way, until there is a vaccine, that I could feel comfortable and safe mixing with people who may have the virus.”

As heard on The Ray D'Arcy Show

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Cocooning is another term – along with social distancing and self-isolating – that’s been introduced or popularised by the Coronavirus pandemic. But the measure, formally introduced by the Taoiseach last Friday, seems to mean different things to different people. Take Eamon Dunphy, for instance. The veteran broadcaster, journalist and podcaster told Ray D’Arcy that he’s cocooning as he’s over 70 and has an underlying health condition – emphysema – but he gets out for a walk most days. Is that cocooning, Ray wondered, is it really?

“I’ve been self-isolating as they call it, for, I suppose, two and a half weeks now because I have an underlying condition, which is emphysema – I used to be a heavy smoker – and this is a respiratory virus, so it’s very important that I don’t get it.”

Eamon’s been vocal in his criticism of the way the Irish health service is run, telling Ray that he believes that, even in the best of times, our health service is significantly under-resourced.

“We have the lowest per-capita intensive care beds in Europe. We have 250. Now, that’s been doubled, the private hospitals are cooperating and we have, for the purposes of this moment, we have a one-tier health system. But we have staff shortages, we have bed shortages, even in the best of times people have to wait a very long time.”

The great value at times like these (if that’s a phrase that can even apply) of things like films, books and sport is the escapism and distraction they provide from the news of the grim onward march of the virus across the world. But of course the virus has put a stop to Eamon’s favourite distraction – sport.

“When you strip away all that, all the things that we use to distract ourselves and amuse ourselves and you’re left with the bare facts of life and particularly at a time like this, it can be depressing and you need to be in good shape upstairs. And most people are, but many people aren’t.”

Eamon believes that the current restrictions might ease by the summer, but the danger of the virus won’t go away until such time as there’s a vaccine available. And that means that he’ll be forced to continue cocooning for the foreseeable future.

“There’s no way, until there is a vaccine, that I could feel comfortable and safe mixing with people who may have the virus.”

And that brings us back to cocooning and how Eamon really shouldn’t be sneaking out for walks if he is in fact cocooning. He only goes around the block in the evenings, he tells Ray, although now that he’s admitting it on air, you never know who might be listening.

“I suppose the guards might pick me up – but I’ve been there before…!”

You can hear Ray’s full chat with Eamon, including how the pandemic could be an existential threat to both the EU and the Euro, and how bad the recession we’re facing on the other side might be, here.

Niall Ó Sioradáin

© The Listener 2020

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