The World Health Organization’s (WHO) report about significant numbers of pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan appeared on New Year’s Eve 2019; a time when the focus of public concern in Ireland was the annual winter outbreak of influenza and its management by our ramshackle health services. Irish hospitals were enmeshed in the winter flu crisis: people on trolleys in jammed emergency departments a principal measurement of how badly our health services perform. An emigrant country by history, in the contemporary globalised world Irish people are more often at the top of the ‘emergent hierarchy of mobility’ as skilled professionals. Emigration is long woven into the fabric of Ireland. During the Great Famine of 1845–1852, it is estimated that one million people left the country. The importance in Irish culture of being physically present in times of death long predates the nationalist Catholic period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.