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Leaders will be judged on their handling of coronavirus crisis

Announcing an accelerated easing of lockdown measures yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar invoked the Roman statesman, scholar and lawyer Cicero, who said: 'The safety of the people shall be our highest law.'

The Irish government is generally considereed to have performed in a coherent and effective way during this pandemic, an early lockdown and establishment of a testing regime regarded as key to suppressing the spread of the virus.

That said, the response to this crisis has not always been flawless and no one can feel in any way complacent when more than 1,600 people have lost their lives in the Republic.

But as we move into the recovery phase, all governments will be reflecting on how they dealt with an unprecedented challenge and ultimately, how well they protected their citizens.

Certainly, 'the safety of the people' does not appear to be the number one priority for Donald Trump.

The United States has by far the worst death toll from Covid-19, more than 110,000 have died over the past few weeks, which is more than the number of American military killed in wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Yet the president has shirked all responsibility for the failures that led to this horrendous outcome, which in public health terms is nothing short of catastrophic.

He also appears incapable of displaying any degree of empathy or heartfelt compassion for the suffering of his own people.

While the US tops the league table for the worst death figures in this pandemic, the UK comes in at an ignominious second.

Yesterday, the official death toll in the UK passed 40,000 although the true figure will be much higher.

Even so, it will be recalled that at the start of this emergency, officials suggested that fewer than 20,000 deaths would be a 'good outcome'.

Despite seeing the horror unfolding in Italy and Spain, the British government did not take the threat seriously enough and failed to act quickly in imposing lockdown. Its response during this crisis has been characterised by mixed messages, confusion and an inexcusable lack of focus on protecting care homes.

Boris Johnson faces searching questions, chief among them will be - could lives have been saved if he had acted differently?

It may be for an inquiry to determine the answer but many will draw their own conclusions about the performance of the British government during this unparalleled crisis.

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Leading article