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Level 5 October 20, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This is going to be very very tough on people. Workers, businesses, and people in general. This, the restoration of the PUP to €350 for those earning over €400 a week, was the very least that could be done. There’s a lot of people out there who are facing unemployment or have already lost their jobs. Every day that passes is another day lost for them. I’ve a neighbour who learned only last month that their job in an entertainment sector was gone due to the pre-Level 5 restrictions and the reality of the pandemic.

That incenses me on their behalf – because we went through lock-down in March through to the Summer and now in October all that seems to have been wasted. They were and remain cautious, sensible, and yet through no fault of their own have no job, at least until matters resume something closer to normality. And that experience is played out across this state (and island).

There’s many places to apportion blame and many areas where mistakes have been made. Reopening too quickly – and in effect shredding their own plan to do so. Not reopening on a sectoral basis and trialing same in order to see where and how flare ups should or could be dealt with. Not having a strategy as to where we would be by now. Look at the Level’s plan and marvel at how it doesn’t come close to ‘normality’ even at Level 1, and how we haven’t been close to Level 1 either. Ignoring or wishing away numbers as they increased from mid-Summer. There’s simply no way any rational examination of matters could have led anyone to a conclusion other than that we would wind up here given the manner in which those figures were increasing since the original ‘reopening’. The nonsense of a fortnight ago was particularly pitiful in that regard. Small wonder there’s incomprehension on the part of the Pat Leahy’s of this world at the government’s supposed U-turn. Only by willfully not facing up to this could one have expected it to have played out differently. And only by the narrowest of framings could one seriously argue the government had ‘weakened its own authority’ given that had predated this government with the too rapid reopening earlier in the year – and even then that is to ignore the actual health reasons for what is now taking place.

Amazing to read Leahy say the following:

There are two reasons for the U-turn.The first is that the Government was genuinely spooked by the spread of the virus – fears that were stoked by warnings from Holohan and Nphet, who told Ministers over the weekend that the “rapid deterioration” would continue to worsen. The public health warnings were that it was only a matter of time before the hospitals and ICU units began to fill up again.

And then;

The second reason is that politically the Government was in a corner. If the Government turned out to be wrong about resisting the lockdown, and was forced into it in the coming weeks, perhaps over Christmas, it would face a heavy political price. Holding out in the face of Nphet’s advice was always a risky political position. But folding now is not without risk either.

And;

The opposition within Government will be amplified outside it. The economic costs could be extremely damaging. There must now be a question of whether the schools remain open – a key test of the administration’s ability to manage the country.

Those paragraphs cannot be written unless the underlying viewpoint is one that doesn’t appreciate or wish to appreciate the gravity of the situation. How could any government of this state not be ‘spooked’ by the spread of the virus? The administration in the North has been ‘spooked’ and elsewhere…well Wales just went into a two-week lockdown.

Speaking of which perhaps most the most conspicuous failure of government was an inability to speak hard truth to people about the nature of where we and the rest of Europe and the world are. As noted in comments yesterday there’s a very strange sort of aversion to reality in all the stuff about Ireland being an outlier in terms of restrictions, or in Leahy’s comments above, when even the most cursory examination of the papers demonstrates the situation in Paris, Madrid, Germany, the UK (whole cities under lockdowns and somehow the penny hasn’t dropped here?)…and on and on. Even, as noted last night, with significant restrictions introduced in Belgium:

It comes as governments across Europe impose new restrictions to try to rein in the rate of infections, with Sweden allowing local authorities to introduce additional rules to cope with regional outbreaks, in a departure from its policy so far.Though a resurgence has not yet taken hold in Sweden to the same extent as other European countries, the number of people in intensive care is rising and authorities have conceded that there is little sign of the population-level acquired immunity some had hoped for.

But none of this latter is news, in the sense that it has been clearly coming for weeks and months (here’s another example from the IT from someone who has been very quiet on the issue and even now doesn’t begin to tackle the actual spread of the virus and the implications of that as the country goes to Level 5). The tussle between central and local government in Madrid played out over the last three weeks. Who was looking at that in the Dublin or Cork media? You’d have to wonder. How could anyone think Ireland would be immune in any sense to all of these dynamics given the approach we have taken has been similar to those other places.

Forget the outright denialists and chancers who peddle misinformation. They’re not the worst of this as it happens. Indeed it seems to me that it is those who shout loudest about others being ‘panicked’ and ‘fearful’ about all this who themselves seem to exhibit those two emotions most clearly. And in a way who can blame them. This is a dismal place to be. We’ve seen societal change on a scale and in a time period undreamt of even a short twelve months ago. And it hasn’t been for the better. I don’t care about wearing a mask, but for some I can well imagine it is a terrifying reminder of how matters have changed from normality. Easier in a way to think that there is no problem than to face up to the scale of what the problem is.

But is those who should, and one suspects do on some level, know better who are most at fault. Parts of a media elite, some in politics who appear credulous in the extreme, and some though not all in lobbying and business. Their efforts to push soft denialism, to offer ‘living with the virus’ lines, to big up marginal voices whose own words show them up for being at best deluded, to almost seem to pretend that the virus is a nothing, that if only “we” all could through some force of will ignore it all would be well and “we” could go back to “our” international holidays and “our” nice dinners out and drinks and our… well, you name it… and all this with some people, but with luck not them, catching it and getting new chronic conditions that they didn’t have before or a number actually dying from it. Because that’s the reality of their line, when one scrubs away all the rhetoric.

And the IT editorial on that today is a perfect example of same – offering no approach, no definition of how it is possible to ‘live’ with a viral pandemic in any meaningful way.

The entire premise of the “Living with Covid” framework was co-existence. After a quiet summer, during which test-and-trace was stepped down and even pubs were allowed to reopen, the country began rapidly to move through those levels. Where we find ourselves now, facing into a six-week closure, is the opposite of living with Covid.

And not a word about how so much of what has happened was the result of pressures from lobbyists.

The current iteration of Level 5 is odd. And perhaps the following:

Many non-essential retail outlets and hairdressers will have to close, while a reduction in off-licence opening hours is also under consideration. The possibility of a click-and-collect service for some non-essential stores is being examined though as the Government aims to maintain as much economic activity as possible.

One would think that hairdressers were – at current levels of PPE – fairly safe. Similarly with click and collect outlets, and in truth some retail. Indeed it’s socialising, gatherings, those sort of areas where problems would seem to be most likely to arise. But where has the concerted push by the state to underscore that message been? The effort to convince sufficient people that sacrifices need to be made in order to get us through and out of this? Conspicuous by their absence from administrations that seem to have been speaking markedly different lines from one minute to the next (and this piece here also from the IT from Simon Carswell at least has a sense that it understands the actual problems and how it is likely going to be necessary to enforce restrictions).

So what is next? Well, the least, the very least, should be clarity about where the state goes after Level 5. Keep in mind it’s only four or so weeks since the ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan issued by the government. That wasn’t a great success. The latest is:

The aim among ministers is to try to ensure businesses are back up and running before Christmas, amid hopes the country could return to Level 3 by the end of November, and Level 2 in the days before 25 December.

This seems a return to the past, doesn’t it? And all too easy to imagine the potential for matters to flare up again over December. But what is the longer term objective?

To get people up and about, the economy up and about, the society up and about (and note how little the term society is used in all this in discussions at any level) the need to quash the virus and/or control and contain it requires much the same approaches. Are there efficient track and trace systems in place? I’ve never thought a zero-Covid approach was unattainable, even in the context of the border. The international travel angle is tricky, but not impossible to manage, the reality of more extensive restrictions in the North something that should have been seized on by the administration in this state as an opportunity – and of course the need for an all-island response has never been clearer.

So does the state try to suppress this to the greatest possible extent, the better to allow something much closer to normality to emerge the far side of it? Or will matters return to the limbo of the past number of months where things are somewhat open but mostly closed? That stuff about Level 2 seems all too like it.

And that’s no progress at all for all those – all of us – mentioned in the first paragraph.

Comments»

1. gypsybhoy69 - October 20, 2020

+1, well said WBS.

Liked by 1 person

2. alanmyler - October 20, 2020

We’ll know on Thursday morning whether this is going to work, whether the restrictions will be taken seriously by people, simply by looking at the M50 traffic cameras during the morning commute. If the roads aren’t empty then we’re fucked, simple as.

It’s worth noting that we’re very far from what constitutes a “lockdown” by the measure of what has been proven to be successful at curtailing the spread of the virus in the Far East. But if followed these restrictions should slow down the spread and bring down the positivity rate to allow some reopening in time for Christmas. But then we can expect another Level5 in due course, in and out. Until such time as they’re no longer necessary. In the meantime…

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

That’s so true AM re this being far from a lockdown in global terms, which is not to deny the pain and difficulty it causes for many many, but agreed at least there’s a chance if the opportunity is seized.

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crocodileshoes - October 20, 2020

How does the reduction of public transport to 25% capacity fit with keeping the schools open? There was talk of staggered school opening times, but I haven’t heard of any instances. The rush hour traffic will still be much busier than in April/May, because of schools. Having said that, I hope the media use a bit of shoe leather on investigating businesses that should be allowing employees to work from home, but aren’t.

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3. tafkaGW - October 20, 2020

As I mentioned elsewhere: we will only see numbers coming down as a result of this lockdown in two weeks time.

Because they government ignore NPHET’s recommendations they, the government, have the deaths and disablement that will result in the next couple of weeks and the inflated figures subsequently on their consciences.

I find all this talk of ‘everything will be fine for Christmas’ very unhelpful, especially given the damage the confused and inconsistent approach to Covid is going to do to the wage dependent. You don’t want to have to lock down again for six weeks in the middle of January.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

Yep, I’m betting the are using the Christmas stuff as an inducement. Btw given some anecdotal stuff I’m hearing I wonder how many companies aren’t following guidelines on only essential workers in and how that impacts on matter.

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4. irishelectionliterature - October 20, 2020

Whole thing is brutal. It’s been a mess but it appears to have been a mess in most countries.
The travel thing , testing in the airport would seem a simple thing to do. Stay in a hotel room until you get the all clear. It’s not as if the Government aren’t putting homeless families in Hotels already! Not sure how many cases are travel related but it at least would stop the narrative of sure they’re letting anyone in, why should I obey the rules.
The schools being open is the one thing that the Government constantly harp on about as it’s their only achievement. I can’t understand why they didn’t give Level 5 an extra help by closing them for an extra week.
The tracing in schools seems to have broken down, with cases reported and the HSE still not getting back to close contacts a week later.
I’m sure they’re not the highest in the public’s empathy but school staff are absolutely shattered at this stage.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

I wonder if they will decide to extend the holidays by a week. Heard some odd straws in the wind about that over the last day or two.

V true re the govt putting people in hotels.

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5. Eoin O'M - October 20, 2020

It does seem to me that your line ‘bringing us back to the past’ should remind us of FF’s constant line in 2009 and 2010 that we just have to make some small adjustments and then return to the good old days. Frightening to think that, institutionally, they’ve learned absolutely nothing.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

That’s food for thought, your point. So in a way it’s a long established pattern, nothing too radical, nothing that will scare the horses, just a little here and there and all will be okay. Dead right, if that’s the approach they’ve learned nothing and the prospects for the society are grim.

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6. NFB - October 20, 2020

I now genuinely think this is a worse government than 2011. Then, they were shockingly inept in a way that took a staggering cost on the nation, but in 2020 the government see’s fit to gamble with peoples lives directly.

The nonsensical level system. The lack of clarity on so many points. The insane commitment to keeping schools open at any cost. The absolutely pathetic deference to the GAA and the championship, God forbid we should call that off. The undercutting of NPHET, and now this sniveling U-turn when the fantasy of “Maybe it will get better if we do nothing” doesn’t work out. This government and its Ministers have proven themselves dangerously incompetent when it comes to the health of the nation, and unfit for public office.

Opposition parties, dissenters within the Greens and anyone else need to agitate for an election as soon as it is conceivable. The current government are going to end up killing a bunch of us so the All-Ireland can happen.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

That’s a great line, ‘maybe it will get better if we do nothing’. That’s pretty much the size of it. I think you’re right re FG/FF. We’ve just had a seven month long education on how lobbying functions in this society and where power centres are.

Liked by 1 person

7. CL - October 20, 2020

“I asked Taoiseach Micheál Martin why the opportunity was missed when the first lockdown brought down the level of the virus in Ireland to build a system that would prevent its resurgence.
From his answer, it would seem the plan is rolling restrictions until a vaccine.”- Naomi O’Leary, Twitter, Oct 17

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WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

Well fingers crossed that that works. Because if there is no vaccine what the hell happens next?

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WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

And by the by they were bigging up ‘news’ about a vaccine before Christmas.

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CL - October 20, 2020

Its unknown when a vaccine will be available. This seems a little optimistic;

“Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar now says access to COVID therapies and even a vaccine could be just weeks away, meaning life could be well on its way back to normal by Inauguration Day.”
https://nypost.com/2020/10/19/imminent-vaccine-could-make-all-of-bidens-covid-promises-irrelevant/

But its not too early to plan.

“A state vaccine task force has created a draft of a distribution plan for New York ahead of a completed vaccine the federal government has hinted at having ready in the coming months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.”
https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/coronavirus/ny-unveils-draft-vaccine-distribution-plan-in-anticipation-of-drug-release/2675315/

Meanwhile, flu season is here.

“The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said delays in the distribution of the flu vaccine amid global shortages have “serious potential” to undermine this year’s vaccination programme, with it unclear when or if the supply issues will be resolved.
IPU said the “disheartening” delays had led to “huge amounts of uncertainty and frustration” which it shares with the public.”- Breakingnews.ie, 10-15

“October is prime time for flu vaccinations, and the U.S. and Europe are gearing up for what experts hope is high demand as countries seek to avoid a “twindemic” with COVID-19.
“There’s considerable concern as we enter the fall and winter months and into the flu season that we’ll have that dreaded overlap” of flu and the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health said Thursday. He got his own flu shot earlier this week.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/health/cold-and-flu/high-demand-flu-shots-doctors-hope-avoid-covid-twindemic/n1241700

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said
https://www.mediaite.com/t

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8. pettyburgess - October 20, 2020
WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

Skimming through it but so far so good.

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pettyburgess - October 20, 2020

And on the same subject, here’s one from the SWN. It’s interesting that the socialist left are converging on a Zero Covid message. http://www.rebelnews.ie/2020/10/19/zero-covid-way-out/?fbclid=IwAR0nLFt8T4k_ZvFh72eh7leeKNIqfoBbN9nEuaMPUDZgCmmLiruk-8w1jSM

PBP launch a zero Covid strategy document tomorrow.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

Is it because they actually have a longer term appreciation of economics than the centre and right of centre? That in order to allow society and economy to reopen there can’t be Covid in any sort of significant circulation otherwise we’re back into successive lockdowns?

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Pasionario - October 20, 2020

Or maybe it’s because they will never be in a position to implement an impossible policy.

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CL - October 20, 2020

“the Independent Science Advocacy Group for Covid-19 in Ireland (ISAG). The group is composed of volunteer public health experts, epidemiologists, scientists, science communicators and modellers. The proposed strategy is aggressive suppression with a goal of zero community transmission…..
It is asserted that an elimination strategy is bad for the economy, despite the fact the low-Covid and ZeroCovid countries are ranking highest in business confidence, lowest in GDP decline, and have a self-evidently booming domestic economy and social life….
A good deal of the opposition to ZeroCovid centres around the importance of open travel, and the significance of our airports in our island reality. This is an interesting inversion of the fact that our island status gives us unique power over travel into the country, and allows an enviable position to decide on our destination….
The Border with Northern Ireland is often seen as the main obstacle towards suppression of the virus, despite the fact that the pandemic has provided the single greatest incentive for cross-Border co-operation in our history.”
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/tom%C3%A1s-ryan-are-we-ready-to-get-serious-about-eliminating-covid-19-1.4383005

“The Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) for COVID-19 are a voluntary and independent expert group from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and abroad, advocating a SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID19) elimination strategy for the island of Ireland. ISAG was formed by scientists across the island of Ireland to achieve this objective, to offer a way forward and hope that our society and economy can function normally”
https://www.isagcovid19.org/

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pettyburgess - October 20, 2020

I suspect that it’s a combination of having a longer term understanding of economic issues as you suggest, not being at all persuaded by short termist lobbying from business sectors and also being willing to take stances that they know will be unpopular with elements of their own support.

Even SF, SocDems etc prefer to concentrate on criticising obvious govt errors rather than laying out a way forward. That has the advantages of not alienating anyone and not leaving hostages to fortune.

More long sighted strategists for capital will start dabbling with zero Covid views in my view.

Liked by 1 person

alanmyler - October 20, 2020

I wonder is there also the element of the “transitional demand” to it, meaning calling for something which they understand that capitalism-as-is is unable to deliver and which if implemented would really place massive stress onto the contradictions within the existing economic system? All of which is ok by me btw, that’s not intended as a criticism or a reason not to do it for that and the other good reasons.

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WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

That makes sense Alan. And as you say, given testing and tracing is the key to those polities that have either successfully eradicated it or brought it to very low levels of transmission my take is that even if zero-Covid is unattainable in practical terms in the literal sense it makes sense to go for it, not least because it offers a way away from lockdowns and to broader openings. So I applaud them for at least putting it out there and – of course – having all the other approaches as well which whatever course is taken, short of let it rip, need to be there.

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alanmyler - October 20, 2020

But FFFGGP are incapable of overseeing the pain to the system that would be required to achieve zero covid. Incapable ideologically being wedded to the idea of globalisation and the weakness of national state level decision making, incapable politically being open to the influences of vested interest groups of all sorts whether business or sporting or you name it, incapable psychologically of holding their shit together long enough for the strategy to work in the face of all of those external concerns.

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Pasionario - October 20, 2020

Here’s what you would have to do to pursue a “zero-Covid strategy” in Ireland, which is misnamed since even its proponent tend to admit it would not in fact yield zero cases:

1. Ban all foreign visitors and impose a strict, prison-like quarantine in hotels for any Irish people arriving from abroad. I’m not sure this would be allowed under EU rules, but let’s assume, for argument’s sake, we could get away with it.

2. Either erect a very hard border with Northern Ireland (impossible) or convince the Northern Irish executive to pursue a zero-Covid policy as well. But zero-Covid in Northern Ireland would mean the same kind of prison-like quarantine for anyone arriving in Northern Ireland from Britain. And the DUP would never accept it (or any quarantine for people moving around the UK). You might also have a go at persuading Boris to adopt a zero-Covid policy, but pigs will fly.

So the policy falls apart at step 2, before we even get to its broader implementation, which would necessitate a brual Wuhan-style lockdown. All but truly essential workers would not be allowed out of their homes for an extended period, possibly three months. Schools would be shut again, with all the knock-on negative effects on working-class children we’ve already seen around the world. Throw in a bit of Chinese-style electronic surveillance as well.

At the end of all that, it’s not even clear it would work. It’s a fantasy, which would be immensely destructive even if it were capable of being implemented. RBB and Murphy are showboating.

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pettyburgess - October 20, 2020

Alan, it’s not being put forward as a transitional demand. Firstly, PBP don’t use transitional demands in general. That’s not their methodology. RISE do agree with the idea of a transitional programme, but there’s nothing inherently transitional about the elimination of community transmission of COVID – the countries that have managed it haven’t broken with the capitalist system in order to do so after all.

By the standards you are using for “transitional demands”, the Workers Party policy involves just about any issue would constitute a transitional demand. After all, almost any of them would be completely unthinkable to FF/FG/GP.

Pasionario, that comment is crude and not very honest scaremongering from beginning to end. The alternatives to the elimination of community transmission and the suppression of new outbreaks through a fully developed Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support system comes in two basic varieties: 1) let it rip mass pensioner killing. 2) An endless cycle between mid level restrictions and high level lockdowns, with the switch occurring when deaths start rising. Anyone whose policy isn’t some version of zero Covid is advocating one of those two things. The government and the opposition parties other than the socialist left are in camp 2. The contrarian element in the media and the rat-lickers who push “scamdemic” stuff all over social media are in camp 1.

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Pasionario - October 20, 2020

How is it crude and dishonesty to point out the basic insurmountable barriers to implementing the policy? The dishonesty belongs to those who pretend “zero-Covid” is feasible in this country, which it plainly isn’t for reasons over which we have no control.

Curiously, the Socialist Party doesn’t seem to have endorsed this unless I’m missing something. No mention on their website anyway that I can find.

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pettyburgess - October 20, 2020

It was dishonest because you made plainly false claims about things like a “brutal Wuhan style lockdown” which you are aware have not been necessary in other countries and are not advocated by those pushing for the suppression of community transmission here.

Just to get all our cards on the table here, given that it’s a debate where rejection of one approach necessarily involves acceptance of another, are you advocating an endless cycle of mid level restrictions and lockdowns alternating with the level of deaths? Or are you advocating loosening restrictions, with the mass death that entails?

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Pasionario - October 20, 2020

I advocate mid-level restrictions combined with enhanced protections for the vulnerable.

Our hospitals are not on the verge of being overwhelmed (says the HSE), treatments have improved markedly since the spring, and the virus has been shown to be far less deadly than was initially feared.

The new lockdown may save some lives, but it will blight many more in the long run, and will also contribute to an accumulation of other health problems — mental health, obesity, missed cancer screenings, stroke victims who never go to hospital, and declining rates of vaccination for other illnesses. The latter portend more “mass death” than Covid-19.

We also have to contend with the possibility that there may never be an effective vaccine for Covid-19. And since we can’t and shouldn’t live like this forever, developing some natural resistance to the virus represents an essential insurance policy.

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WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

Whether one goes for zero-Covid-19 (my own personal preference) or as strong a suppression as can be achieved using shorter lock-downs that break the back of the current level of community transmission, the methodologies RISE recommends such as FTTIS are vital in either instance.

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WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

Pasionario we’ve been around the rooftops on this, the idea of developing a natural immunity (aka herd immunity) to the virus comes with mass deaths and injuries. I’ve shown you time and again the numbers that would have to be affected. It’s not just me, David McWilliams and my God even Colum McCarthy have been doing the numbers on this. But that’s because the numbers are easy to do – percentages hospitalised in age cohorts, percentages dead, vulnerable populations percentages and just scale it up as the virus proliferates.

The head of the Irish ICU body noted this week that there are no improved treatments of any substance since the beginning of the pandemic.

Herd immunity is unfeasible outside of a let it rip approach that has not a whisker of being implementable by any sane society (not to mention the economic effects it would have to have hundreds of thousands stricken by a profoundly debilitating disease). It’s also predicated on long term immunity that we simply do not have evidence exists.

Protections for the vulnerable are impossible (though interesting that you are sorry for those quarantined for two weeks in hotels over travel but seem oblivious to the effective indefinite quarantining of mass numbers of people many who would be elderly). The CEO of Irish Care Homes noted only last week that when community transmission gets to a certain level death rates in care settings go up proportionately. Add in multi-generational households, the fact that obesity is a predictor of mortality/negative outcomes and you’re talking about vulnerable sectors of the population in large percentages. The tail effects amongst the young and healthy in terms of conditions post-even mild Covid-19 are now of a piece percentage wise with those who are elderly who die (the Atlantic reported only three weeks ago that a 32 year old who is hospitalised has more chance of developing chronic cardiac issues than a 70 plus year old who is hospitalised has of dying on current stats).

I’m genuinely sorry to see you detaching to the laissez faire/essentially denialist camp on this.

PS Just to add we’ve had mid-range restrictions/protections in this state for months. They didn’t work. The numbers have inexorably crept up since the reopenings.

Liked by 2 people

Joe - October 20, 2020
pettyburgess - October 21, 2020

I’m not going to engage with rat-licker fantasists about enhanced protections for the most vulnerable in a society that is currently failing for a second time to keep the virus out of nursing homes once community transmission rises beyond a certain point.That is we can’t keep it away from the most presegregated group of the most vulnerable, yet the callous airily talk about enhanced protection for upwards of a quarter of the population who can’t be separated out from society and in many cases live In multigenerational households (unlike in Sweden where atomised living arrangements in the country with the highest number of single person households in Europe at least limited the carnage from their bad bet). What would result is not herd immunity but a herd cull. But it is worth pointing out in response to one claim made above that numbers in hospital have in fact been increasing at an exponential rate since early August. That doesn’t look like much when absolute numbers are tiny. Now it means 220 on the 10th, 315 yesterday, well over 400 next week…

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Pasionario - October 21, 2020

Protections for the vulnerable are not impossible. A basic step would be allow those with underlying conditions who can’t work from home to claim the PUP indefinitely. The government could also hire the healthy unemployed people as community workers to provide services to the vulnerable. I don’t propose ordering the old and sick to stay at home indefinitely, but if supports were in place to facilitate that, I suspect a large proportion would take that option.

As for treatment, it has improved, the main difference being a shift away from overreliance on mechanical ventilation.

Both Covid and lockdowns kill people and damage health. The question is which is the bigger killer, and because prolonged and repeated lockdowns have an immediate and long-term impact on the entire population, I think it’s the latter.

As for naturally acquired herd immunity, the places that got hardest hit the first time around — New York, Stockholm, Bergamo — either aren’t experiencing a second wave or have a much smaller one than the first wave. This supports the hypothesis that after about 20% of the population has developed antibodies, the virus starts to run out of potential hosts (perhaps because T-cells provide immunity to a larger proportion of the population).

I do not advocate “letting the virus rip”, but if you have mid-level restrictions combined with mask-wearing, then you can keep the spread to manageable levels, which will start to hit that threshold elsewhere by the middle of next year. This is actually what’s happening in most of Europe and strikes the right balance.

A vaccine may or may not facilitate that process, but we can’t assume it will, so a bit of muddling through is the best of a bad set of options (and “Zero-Covid” is not even an option in Ireland because of geographic and political issues, which none of the the policy’s advocates have resolved).

There have been a handful of documented re-infections among the hundreds of millions who have had the virus, and all but one of these, last time I checked, have been mild or asymptomatic. That’s how these things tend to work. The common cold wiped out millions in the New World upon first exposure, but it doesn’t anymore.

Finally, I am deeply skeptical of the prospects for an effective testing and tracing system anywhere in the West. Our culture and bureaucratic structures just don’t seem to be up to the task. It’s worth a try, but we shouldn’t count on it either. We’ve already had one go at this, not just here, but across Europe, and it doesn’t seem to have worked anywhere. At best, testing and tracing will probably end up helping flatten the curve rather than crushing it.

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Liberius - October 21, 2020

As for naturally acquired herd immunity, the places that got hardest hit the first time around — New York, Stockholm, Bergamo — either aren’t experiencing a second wave or have a much smaller one than the first wave.

Factually dubious, as this report from Radio Sweden proves. Also, the notion one can isolate the old from everyone else is idiotic and showcases a lack of knowledge of multi-generational households and the dependence of many older and vulnerable people on younger carers who might well be infectious without realising it.

Published måndag 5 oktober kl 14.11
The amount of coronavirus found in waste water plants in the Stockholm region has doubled in recent weeks and is now approaching the record high levels of the spring, according to researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH).

Zeynep Cetecioglu Gurol, associate professor in the department of chemical engineering at KTH, says samples taken from the waste water plants used for over one and a half million Stockholmers suggest a very clear increase in the virus in society, which is not due to more people being tested.

Waste water represents people’s lives and shows that there is a virus in society now. It has increased since late August,”

she tells Radio Sweden.

https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=7567982

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sonofstan - October 20, 2020

Will the SF one be called ‘It hasn’t gone away you know’?

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CL - October 20, 2020

“This evasion of responsibility stems from a deeply embedded neoliberal ideology of outsourcing public services like welfare, health, education and public transport to the private sector….
The mirror image of the neoliberal state’s refusal to take responsibility for public health is a huge emphasis on personal responsibility. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, ‘There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women’. What this amounts to during a pandemic is the neoliberal state offloading responsibility to individuals to stop it, so as to evade its own responsibility and ensure the continuation of profit-making. It’s not a coincidence that right after ignoring NPHET’s advice to immediately move to level 5, the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, was tweeting to “Please try to focus on what you can do” and that “Individual actions are key”. Likewise, his coalition partner, Fianna Fail’s John Lahart, tweeted that “It’s all about individual responsibility now”. -RISE.

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9. Alibaba - October 20, 2020

The Social Democrats and Labour have condemned the lack of appropriate testing and tracing. Correctly so. But the glaring omission in their statements is the equally important matter of the need to isolate those awaiting test results or getting positive ones. The poor and many of the working class do not have the social conditions for self-isolation. What provision does the opposition suggest to address this? For the majority of them, sweet F.A. 

I see that, to its credit, RISE says we need ‘… a world class publicly owned Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support (FTTIS) infrastructure … ‘

And SWN says: ‘In addition to an aggressive testing regime, we urgently need investment in our chronically underfunded health services – on both sides of the border.’

The problem is not just to minimise the loss of life in a pandemic but also to deal with the hardships and avoidable deaths of those with non-Covid diagnosis and treatments that have been pushed away and hidden in a defects-ridden health system.

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10. CL - October 20, 2020

“The Taoiseach said Ireland could not pursue a zero-Covid strategy because it is not New Zealand, and it was not possible to seal the Border either.”
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/taoiseach-says-ireland-cannot-pursue-zero-covid-strategy-or-seal-border-1.4386180

“Most scientists agree that stringent control measures, involving efficient contact tracing, testing and isolation, together with social distancing and mask wearing, are required to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2. South Korea, Taiwan, China and New Zealand have all successfully used these approaches to suppress the virus…….

while an effective vaccine offers the best chance of reaching zero COVID-19, we should be realistic about what’s possible. Eliminating the virus across much of the world, while not unthinkable, could take a significant number of years.”
https://theconversation.com/is-reaching-zero-covid-19-possible-145108

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WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2020

The bottom line is that it’s all hard work and effort, unbelievably so if we compare and contrast with even twelve months ago. But I figure better hard work than people dying unnecessarily or permanent or oscillating lockdowns/openings where others will be impacted up to and including deaths.

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11. CL - October 21, 2020

“Although not named as such by government, some people have been critical of this so-called ‘seesaw’ approach that has been signposted as Ireland’s path through the pandemic.
Speaking about coming out of lockdowns back in May, the World Health Organization (WHO) said easing restrictions and reopening an economy too quickly could lead to a “vicious cycle” of economic and health disasters.
Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO’s emergencies programme, said countries that reopen their economies and societies need to have an adequate testing and tracing system in place first.

“If you reopen in the presence of a high degree of virus transmission, then that transmission may accelerate,” Ryan said in May.

the Taoiseach made it clear that the zero Covid approach will not be pursued here, and neither will herd immunity. They said the continuous discussion about such strategies by some experts serves no one, as due to the border issue, it was never going to be runner….

Although they admit Zero-Covid is almost impossible to achieve, experts believe it still should be the goal for many countries.

Dr Kim Roberts, a virologist in Trinity College Dublin, said there’s a lot of anger about the idea that we’re going into a lockdown, but that is what the Living with Covid Strategy is.”
https://www.thejournal.ie/covid-19-lockdown-ireland-5238525-Oct2020/

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12. Pangurbán - October 21, 2020

A thought. Should the names of those refusing to engage with contact tracing be published in the same manner as tax defaulters? It’s balancing rights and the right to life is of a higher order than the right to privacy?

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WorldbyStorm - October 21, 2020

Really interesting point Pangurbán. I don’t know myself. Open to being convinced.

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13. Dr. X - October 21, 2020

Given that previously infected people can catch the bug a second time, even after they have recovered, I think that leaves the “herd immunity” proposal holed below the waterline.

I heard a rumour just now that at least some businesses in Dublin are refusing to shut. Anything to that one?

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WorldbyStorm - October 21, 2020

I know of businesses where despite the restrictions they’re being told to still go in. There’s a macho aspect to that which is just depressing.

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Gearóid Clár - October 21, 2020

Cool dudes

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WorldbyStorm - October 21, 2020

😦

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14. alanmyler - October 21, 2020

This really isn’t going to help the government win the hearts and minds necessary to make the Level-5 restrictions a success.

https://www.thejournal.ie/contact-tracing-problems-ireland-stephen-donnelly-5239881-Oct2020/

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CL - October 21, 2020

“Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane said the Government had wasted the summer months in not recruiting enough contact tracers….
Dr Maitiu Ó Tuathail said simply sending out texts to people asking them to inform their close contacts “undermines” the entire contact tracing system and “makes a mockery of the whole thing”.
https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40068542.html

“The Defence Forces are prepared to put “thousands of personnel” into the battle against Covid-19 if the government needs them, according to the senior officer in charge of the military task force response to the virus.
Since the first Level 5 lockdown last March, members of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps have been involved in numerous operations around the country, mainly as an aid to the HSE.”
https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40068656.html

“40,000 applicants have signed up for the HSE’s ‘On Call For Ireland’ initiative so far.”- Irish Examiner, March 20

“OF THE 73,000 people who applied for the government’s Be On Call For Ireland campaign to recruit healthcare workers, only 209 of them have been placed into a role in the health service.”
https://www.thejournal.ie/on-call-for-ireland-workers-5170155-Aug2020/

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CL - October 21, 2020

“Mr Martin said the HSE has now “reset the process” and it is managing all the contact tracing from yesterday again as per normal.
He said the HSE should be able to “get to everyone” within 24 hours and also told the Dáil that army personnel were still involved with contact tracing.
The Taoiseach said the idea was to create a permanent work force in terms of contact tracing, which he said was the only way to deal with a pandemic.
He said testing and tracing was important but it was not the primary shield and people must understand the importance of their own individual behaviours to stop the spread of the virus.”
https://www.rte.ie/news/politics/2020/1021/1172969-leaders-questions/

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15. CL - October 21, 2020

“.”Pandemic politicisation” doesn’t work. When you have more political advisors than public health doctors working for government, you have a culture problem. Think of your experts as a resource, but a political nuisance. Be Jacinda, not Boris or Donald…. ”
https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1318775583430430720.html

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16. CL - October 22, 2020

Varadkar, Oct 15,

“Ireland would need an “army” of contact tracers even bigger than the Defence Forces to track down the close associates of everyone now becoming infected with Covid-19, the Tánaiste has told the Dáil.
Addressing claims that the track-and-trace system has collapsed, forcing higher levels of public restrictions, Leo Varadkar said: “We are now trying to contact trace 1,000 people’s contacts nearly every day.”

It was “really tough” on the people manning the phones in an attempt to do so, he said.
“If we’re going to have a couple of hundred or 1,000 positives a day, and everyone has six or seven contacts, that’s 7,000 people a day we need contact-traced.
“You need an army of people – probably an army bigger than our actual army – to trace that many people every day.”

There are an estimated 14,000 people in the combined Defence Forces.-

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/coronavirus/tanaiste-says-an-army-of-people-is-needed-to-contact-trace-up-to-7000-people-every-day-39628381.html

Oct, 21
“Mr Varadkar… said that while the testing capacity was holding up well, the contact tracing side of the system was not going so well. Mr Varadkar is understood to have told the meeting that he believes it was “unfair” to “dump this all on the GPs”…..
Multiple sources present at the meeting said that the Tánaiste said that the HSE had been asked by various Ministers over the last few months if it had enough contact tracers and told the Government that it had…..
Mr Varadkar said contact tracers were not expensive and the HSE had been told there would never be an issue funding these posts.

One source said the Fine Gael leader explained to the meeting that the HSE had previously told the Government that staff they had let go in contact tracing during the quieter months could be re-hired.

Mr Varadkar is understood to have told the meeting “that is not what happened”.
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/varadkar-says-dumping-contact-tracing-problem-on-gps-unfair-1.4387464

“Social Democrats leader Catherine Murphy said she was shocked to hear Martin admit that he didn’t know about this problem until he received a text of the Irish Times story.
“We’re heading into the second lockdown because we’ve lost control of the virus. The system of contact tracing is under-resourced and can’t cope,” she told Martin. “You should have been aware of this, of how under pressure the system was.”
Murphy said those being asked to perform “do it yourself” contact tracing could easily have five contacts each. “That’s more than 10,000 people circulating in the community completely unaware that they’re at risk,” she said.
https://www.politico.eu/article/ireland-asks-coronavirus-victims-to-notify-own-contacts-tracing-system-overwhelmed/

“The problem has arisen because the system could not keep up with the number of cases coming in with a staff of 400 people. The case load they were having to deal with jumped from 500 to 1,000 on October 7th and 8th and has averaged around 1,200 a day over recent days.
Given that Level 3 restrictions did not work to reduce social contacts between people, contact tracers were having to make up to 10,000 calls on some recent days to track down close contacts. This would have required almost three times the number of contact tracers to manage. Still, it is hard to understand why the HSE did not staff up more substantially during the summer lull when daily cases fell to single figures some days.” -Simon Carswell
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/covid-19-explainer-why-is-the-contact-tracing-system-getting-swamped

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17. tafkaGW - October 22, 2020

This preprint: https://doi.org/fdt3 documents genetically the relationship between college opening and deaths in care homes:

Abstract:

College reopening decisions during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic represent a trade-off between competing risks to students, faculty and staff, and college finances. Additionally, risks taken in reopening colleges can impose significant burdens on individuals living in surrounding communities. Many colleges that reopened for in-person instruction have reported frequent SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks. La Crosse County, Wisconsin experienced a substantial SARS-CoV-2 outbreak (2,002 cases in September 2020) that coincided with the return to in-person instruction at three local academic institutions. Genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 cases in La Crosse during that period found rapid expansion of two viral substrains. Although the majority of cases were among college-age individuals, from a total of 111 genomes sequenced we identified rapid transmission of the virus into more vulnerable populations. Eight sampled genomes represented two independent transmission events into two skilled nursing facilities, resulting in two fatalities. Our study highlights the very significant risks imposed by college administrator reopening decisions, not just on college-associated populations, but on vulnerable individuals in surrounding communities.

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WorldbyStorm - October 22, 2020

Thanks tafkaGW. Underscores a lot of what has been said.

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