Outrage was sparked on Twitter on Sunday when a video of the D2 bar, Berlin, was released. The footage showed crowds of people dancing, with the bartender pouring shots directly into people’s mouths from the bottle. The video roused indignation in TDs, restaurateurs and publicans alike, with Minister for Further and Higher Education and former Minister for Health, Simon Harris, calling it a “right kick in the gut and middle finger” to frontline workers and those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19.
The question of whether or not the influencer hosting the party, Jessica Brennan, was in the wrong here is not up for discussion – she absolutely was. Brennan is an activewear brand ambassador and YouTuber with a following of 38.1K on Instagram and 257K on YouTube. Sharing a video like this in the middle of a pandemic, at a time where Ireland is teetering on the edge of a second wave, to a following that large is nothing short of reckless. To make matters worse, her following is dominated by young people – the kind who would attend such an event.
The Berlin event has caused division, with some people defending Brennan, touting the meat factory and Direct Provision scandals as the real reasons for the increased cases. Influencer Keelin Moncrieff encouraged people to direct their anger towards the fact that Direct Provision Centres are being permitted to run under unsafe conditions, with residents unable to socially distance or self-isolate where necessary. There is an argument to be made that focusing our attention one person’s foolish actions lets us ignore the greater systemic issues which have facilitated other unsafe practices.
However, there has been a recent change in the type of transmission of coronavirus in Ireland. Initially, the new cases we saw stemmed from clusters – groups of 2 or more people testing positive for Covid-19 in one area. The clusters have occurred in meat factories, construction sites and Direct Provision Centres.
Now, though, we are seeing a rise in community transmission, meaning a new case where the source of contact is unknown. A surge in cases was reported on Saturday with 200 people testing positive for Covid-19, 25 of which were due to community transmission. This is why the Berlin event is worrying – with an increased number of contacts at a time where unknown cases are beginning to spring up, Covid-19 could easily make its way into various social circles and then further still.
Furthermore, there is a stark difference between the plight of meat factory workers and people in Direct Provision, and that of the Berlin attendees. It’s a question of choice – people do not choose to work and live in unsafe conditions in the middle of a pandemic – there is a lack of control which is elemental to their situation, with most only doing it out of necessity. There is a necessity for income and a necessity for a bed and food. There is no necessity for hosting a night-out which breaches public health guidelines, profiting off of it, and using your influence to promote this kind of behaviour to thousands of people on Instagram. There is no necessity, either, to attend such an event, when you have the option of seeing your friends in a safer capacity.
The big picture here, really, is that none of these situations is without fault – the meat factories, the Direct Provision Centres and the likes of Berlin bar are in fact all to be blamed for what appears to be a second wave of Covid-19.
Rosie Roberts Kuntz – Assistant News Editor