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The Corona Files: To Mask or not to Mask? That is the question!

(Last Update: 22 July 2020)

The amount of misinformation that is spread in connection with Covid-19 is unbelievable and it doesn’t matter if it is governments or news media outlets or hordes or attention seekers on YouTube. Misinformation, sometimes accidentally, other times intentionally, is everywhere. It gets really bad on Facebook when our soon-to-be-FORMER Facebook “friends” blindly spread misinformation while trying to “convince” us with their “I have done my research” nonsense. :-(

To help with some facts in this factless time and because a lot of people have asked me in the last few days, I have gathered what is known about masks:

1) Is the wearing of masks mandatory in Ireland?
Despite some news websites announcing already on 17 July that mask have to be worn in shops and some radio stations claiming the same on 20 July, it is (as of 22 July) NOT mandatory yet to wear masks in shops or indoor venues in Ireland. But it is mandatory to wear masks on public transport.

2) Will it become mandatory to wear masks in shops?
“Mandatory” means that it is a legal obligation. This requires a piece of law to be enacted by the Oireachtas. The government has given indications that they want to make it a legal requirement and that they are working on it. But they haven’t indicated when that piece of law will be be completed. So therefore it is VERY likely that the government will enact a law that will make it mandatory. But until then it is just a strong recommendation by the government.
The government says on gov.ie at the time of writing this post: “Wearing a cloth face covering is also recommended in situations where it is difficult to practise social distancing, for example in shops. Wearing of cloth face coverings may help prevent people who do not know they have the virus from spreading it to others.”
Note the “MAY”!

3) Could shops make it a requirement to wear masks even before it is mandatory?
Shops have the right to refuse admission and for that reason it is possible that some shops will not let you in without a mask EVEN if there is no legal requirement to wear masks. It seems somewhat unlikely that larger shops will go down that route, but it is possible.

4) Why is the government considering this now?
This is one of the mysteries of Covid-19. At a time when the virus was a lot more rampant than now, we were NOT advised to wear masks, but now we are. At that time we were even told that masks do NOT protect and suddenly they do!? This certainly does not make sense! The right thing would have been to make it at least a recommendation or strong advice back in March. Certainly while visiting shops during the lockdown.
Most European governments told us at that time that wearing a mask doesn’t help, but now at the tail end of the first wave of Covid-19, they have suddenly changed their mind. It would be great if the governments explained that turn around so that we feel like we are treated with more respect than just stupid underlings, but most governments are not so good at that.

5) Does the wearing of masks even make sense?
Yes, it does! If someone is infected, then wearing a mask can reduce the spread of the virus. It doesn’t completely stop the breathing out of virus (especially if it is one of these leaky Operation Theatre masks that many people still wear), but even with a bad mask it a) reduces the spreading of virus material and it also redirects it away from a “frontal attack” to a more redirected trickle. Large droplets are caught by the mask, small droplets (aerosol) still can get out, but that reduction can be crucial.
If you are not infected, then wearing a mask CAN reduce the risk of infection to a degree. Not a huge degree, but the big droplets that someone sneezes or coughs in your face will be caught by the mask and that helps.
During the whole Lockdown and post lockdown period, not a single person ever coughed or sneezed at me in a shop, so realistically, the self-protection aspect of a mask is probably very small. The “protecting others if you are infected”-aspect is MUCH bigger, especially during the short phase where you might be infected and don’t know it yet.

6) What about all the studies that tell us masks don’t work?
There is a significant number of studies that indicate that masks are not providing the level of protection our governments and their government advisors claim there is. And even the WHO seemingly has released statements that very much question the efficacy of masks. But we have to consider the context! In a scientific context an efficacy of 2-40% is laughable and would not be sufficient. But in a context where the risk is quite low, reducing the risk even further with the relatively harmless procedure of wearing a piece of cloth in front of your face is still a SORT of protection.

7) But how high is the infection risk at the moment really??
On 20 July, the deputy chief medical officer in Ireland announced that in the last 2 weeks 270 new cases with Covid-19 infections were detected. If we assume that there is still a relatively large amount of non-detected Covid-19 cases and we therefore multiply this figure by 10, we might have 2700 active cases. (All the other previously reported cases can be assumed as non-active (healed or dead) since they are well older than 2 weeks.)
With a population of 1,904,806 in Greater Dublin and 2700 Covid-19 cases, that means that approximately 1 in 705 people is infected in Dublin at the moment.
I went to a supermarket last weekend and I probably walked by 30 people or less. That means I will have to go 24 times to the supermarket before I will meet ONE person that is infected with Covid-19. That is a LOW risk!
Also consider that encountering an infected person, doesn’t mean that you are then automatically exposed to a high risk. Ina supermarket you just pass each other, you don’t breath, cough or sneeze in other people’s faces normally.
So actually, the REAL risk of getting infected through casual encounters with infected people is VERY VERY small.

8) Is wearing a mask dangerous?
No! Some odd people (even including some doctors, who should know better) try to spread the incorrect information that an infected person will get worse if they re-breath-in the virus load that they just wanted to spread into the world when the mask prevented them. Keep in mind that they are already full of virus themselves, so it is not that they will re-infect themselves in any way or that they will have MORE virus after re-breathing-in virus.
The other claim that is made is that masks will reduce the oxygen intake and cause a shortage of oxygen because “used air” is re-breathed-in again. A simple Blood Oxygen Meter shows that is is total nonsense. The oxygen in the blood does NOT sink, so the claim is rubbish. Also keep in mind that doctors and nurses wear sometimes masks for large parts or all of their shifts and we have not heard from too many oxygen deprived doctors in operation theatres close to fainting while operating on patients. Or have we?
And finally: Since mask wearing will only be required in public transport and at inside venues (e.g. shops). The time that most people spend with a mask on is quite limited. So even IF there was an oxygen or re-infection issue, just limit that time to a minimum and you will NOT suffer any adverse health effects.

9) Some say that only people FULL of fear wear a mask! But that’s not me!
When you wear a seat-belt in car or wear a bike helmet OR wear a condom, that doesn’t mean that you are full of fear and are therefore in any way a weak person. Prevention against a possible risk doesn’t make you a weak person! So tell the people that want to intimidate you to F off!

10) Are we told to wear masks to train us to be subservient underlings?
No! But you are on to something! We are told to wear masks because our political leaders are afraid to make decisions that could result in deaths. So they follow the “advice” of the doctors and scientists they have chosen to advise them. But doctors and scientists are not necessarily known for being risk takers. So they are over-careful because they also know that they could lose their role as advisor. Nobody is prepared to take responsibility for a decision that COULD result in some deaths. And to ensure that we don’t question the orders the politicians like giving to us, they use the tried and tested strategy of spreading fear about the dangers of the virus even if only 1 in 705 people is actually infected.

11) So does it make sense to wear a mask?
If you are ever told to wear a mask outdoors, then please object/rebel/complain and refuse. In Spain it is mandatory to wear a mask even if you are outside and nobody is around and that is TOTALLY ridiculous.
But we are not that far in Ireland and HOPEFULLY we will never get there.
If you are the type of person that plugs out the TV from the wall socket in the evening, then you should wear a mask IMMEDIATELY. (And there are still LOTS of people who do that – the TV thing! – every night because their grand mother did it.) But seriously, wearing a mask is good for you and for others and you won’t feel comfortable without a mask anyway.
If you have the SLIGHTEST expectation that you might be infected, please wear a mask to protect others. If there is a POSSIBILITY that you are infected and you don’t know yet, then wear a mask for others even if you are happy to remain unprotected from their potential infection.
And that leaves the people that are happy to do (safe) parachute jumps and bungee jumps. People who are risk aware but not overly worried! I know it is a pain to wear a mask if the risk is JUST 1 in 705 to meet an infected person.
But consider this: Two weeks ago, I got a cold! Despite the 2m distance an the hand washing and the no-hugging etc. I got a cold or flu. I got tested for Covid-19 because my doctor thought it is a good idea in the current times and I agreed. The result was negative as him and me had expected. But obviously something had caused my flu symptoms despite all social distancing. I will never know how I got this cold or flu, but I know that viruses only transfer between people and I was not (knowingly) in contact with ANYONE. If I can get a cold/flu with NO contact, then I also could get the Coronavirus. :-O

12) Bonus question: Should I trust the Irish government (or any other government) and should I trust the advisors to the Irish Government?
This is a very good and important question and the answer is an emphatic: NO!!!
No Taoiseach, no Health Minister and no Chief Medical Officer has ANY experience with what they make rules or laws for or what they advise on. They are guessing as much as anybody else in the world. I do believe that they are trying to do their best, but they are not doing it in the best possible way. Spreading fear, feeding the fire of uncertainty and worry and enacting nonsensical and unnecessarily draconian measures with extremely dubious effectiveness is NOT the best way.
So you should question everything that comes from them. If they can provide a good explanation for what they are doing then we might have to go along for now even if we possibly find out in 6-12 months that they were very wrong. But if they can’t provide an explanation then send them back to the drawing board!

Disclaimer: I am not trained as a doctor or as an epidemiologist or as a virologist, so I have the same level of training in that area as most of our politicians. I also have not done any research into the Coronavirus. All I am doing is objectively analysing and critically questioning the information that is provided to us.

Infuriating legal case: Aer Lingus vs. Hot Chocolate Drinker

It is absolutely infuriating when judges make stupid judgements, but it doesn’t get much better when cases are settled.

In this case, a 12 year old boy (sitting next to his dad!) got a cup of hot chocolate and some additional milk from a flight attendant on an Aer Lingus flight from Nice to Dublin. A lid was firmly on the cup!! The boy takes the cup and opens it to put the milk inside. Then he replaces the lid and when he tries to drink, the hot chocolate pours over his leg.

He gets some burns, removes his clothes in the toilet and gets first aid. After arrival in Dublin the boy is brought to hospital and makes a good recovery.

All this is described in the Breaking News article here.

But let me unpack that! A dad buys a hot chocolate for his son (because the son is 12 years of age and because it might not be too far fetched to think that the dad did pay for it, I think we can assume that the dad had some involvement). The son then takes the lid off and does not properly put it back on again. The dad doesn’t check and clearly fails in his duty of care. So now the son screwed up and the dad screwed up.

The son pours the hot drink over his leg and gets burns. Very regrettable and not a good situation for the son, but WHERE in this did Aer Lingus have any responsibility?

The dad (because the son is only 12) sues Aer Lingus for damages and Aer Lingus pays an outrageous EUR 70,000 to the son for having done absolutely nothing wrong.

You might think that doesn’t affect you, but guess who will pay the 70,000. Not the Aer Lingus shareholders from their profits! No! Ultimately you and I will pay for it in higher prices.

So you and I pay this 12 year old boy 70,000 because he messed up when he put the lid back on and because the dad didn’t bother to check. Infuriating!!

And why did Aer Lingus pay? Probably because they expected that the judge for some nebulous reasons would decide against them and then the whole mess could cost even more. The possibility that a judge could find Aer Lingus to be guilty – which probably is based on other court cases – is infuriating in itself, by the way.

Judges (in this case Judge Kevin Cross) should have the ability to throw cases like that out immediately! And people who sue anybody in such a scandalous way should be the ones that pay.

Deranged opinions of legal profession in Ireland! – Rape case in Cork

I have complained many times over the last few years about nonsensical judgements by Irish judges that let criminals off with super low or with no penalties in cases where we, the public feel that serious misjustice has been done.

So many judges in Ireland clearly can not be trusted with the law, which is a shocking realisation in itself. But we would hope that other part of the justice system are at least more trustworthy and show a better understanding of right and wrong.

A trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, however, showed that the next level down, i.e. the people that are not (yet) judges are as deranged in their opinions as many judges.

At that trial in Cork a 27 year old man was accused of raping a 17 year old girl in a laneway.

In her closing words, the senior counsel for the defence, Elizabeth O’Connell SC said:
“Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone? You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” :-O

The job of a defence lawyer is to achieve an acquittal of the accused and they do whatever it takes, even defending someone who is clearly guilty. We don’t know if the accused in this case was guilty or not. He claims that she consented, she says she didn’t. BUT he was acquitted in court by a jury of eight men and four women and it could well be that the outrageousness of “wearing a thong with lace front” contributed to that acquittal.

First of all, how can the clothing that a woman is wearing justify a rape? That is totally ridiculous! Some men might not have much of a brain, others are happy to switch it off, but NO man should EVER be allowed to use the defence that he couldn’t stop himself after he saw a woman dressed in a certain way.

Secondly, how does it matter what clothing is worn UNDERNEATH the normal (outer) clothing? Unless I run around showing everyone my under wear, it is MY decision what I wear underneath and NOBODY has the right to assume that I am inviting any sort of behaviour based on my choice of under garment!

But it is the third thing that shocks me most! This stupid argument about the “thong with a lace front” justifying what might have been rape was not raised by an old, crusty, misogynistic, out-of-touch-with-life, male solicitor/barrister. No, it was used by a middle aged FEMALE barrister and I can only assume that she never wore a “thong with a lace front” in her life! (Her picture is in this article, but has been removed by the Law Library it seems where it was originally found.) If women think that another woman’s clothing choice justifies any sort of behaviour by a man, then what chance do young women that were attacked have in this country?

Even more oddly, though, the FEMALE judge in the court did not stop that misguided defence strategy, but seemingly accepted the victim blaming based on her choice of clothing.

The Irish legal system is in a bad state if the professionals in it have no better understanding of right and wrong!!

The Irish Examiner brought this court case to our attention.

Useless laws in Ireland? Why only here?

In some parts of Dublin, there is a problem with motorised youths on footpaths and in parks. They use quadbikes and small motorbikes (nicknamed “scramblers”) and in 2016 a total of 71 people got injured and in 2017, 62 people suffered injuries, Now I have to be honest and admit that I don’t really care about injuries to people that drive them. It is only injuries to people that are hit by them that count.

You would think that if an illegal vehicle is used (the quadbikes and motorbikes have no insurance and pay no tax), the gardai would make sure that the bikes will be impounded and the drivers will be charged and punished. You would think that! But that is not what is happening!

Instead it emerged this week that Gardai are told NOT to pursue quad bikes and it also emerged that Irish laws are not so clear on what a street is.

I can’t get my head around this: There are around 190 countries in this world and there are many countries (mainly in Europe) where the legal system is quite similar to the system in Ireland. If ANY one of these countries has effective laws and effective law enforcement in ANY area that Ireland can’t get under control, why do our lawmakers not just copy the laws that others have put in place?

We constantly hear of loop holes for drunken drivers. Now there is a problem with quadbikes and motorbikes and there are many other areas as well where the Irish laws are ineffective. Is it that our law makers are just not smart enough or why can’t they get it sorted?

Here is an example of a story that shows the ineffectiveness of laws and law enforcement.

 

Machine Pistols everywhere – But different consequences!

There were two machine pistol-related articles in TheJournal.ie last week and there are two completely different consequences coming from the discovery of these guns.

The first article on Wednesday explained that a “member of the public” FOUND a fully-loaded submachine gun belonging to no other than the Garda Siochana. The gun was in a bag in the boot of an armed Garda unit car and it fell out of the car for currently still unknown reasons. The gun was luckily brought to Store Street Garda station and was handed in.

As a consequence of the incident, “A senior Garda officer has been appointed to examine all the circumstances relating to an incident involving an armed unit in Dublin city centre today.”

The second article on Friday described that also on Wednesday a car was stopped in Drogheda and the driver of the car had a large amount of prescription tablets. She was arrested and during a follow-on search a machine pistol and a ammunition were found in a parked car in Drogheda.

The consequence in this case is that the woman will be in court tomorrow and will be charged in connection with the discovery of the machine pistol.

The two stories have nothing to do with each other. In one case it was seemingly a criminal and/or dissident republican that had the gun and ammunition in the car to be used for illegal activities. In the other case it was the law enforcement authorities that had the pistol, but lost it.

Interestingly, though, both sides have very similar weapons and I would always prefer that the law enforcers have better and a lot more weapons than the criminals. The other interesting aspect is that a large part of the Gardai (is it still the majority?) are not armed at all, while the criminals have machine pistols in their cars. Is that a good situation? Me thinks: NO!

And the final aspect: Imagine that Garda machine pistol had been picked up by the “wrong” person. I’d say the Gardai didn’t even realise that it fell out of their car until MUCH later … with no idea where exactly it fell out. :-O Clearly machine pistols are popular in Ireland and finding one on the streets of Dublin is like winning the lottery for the right criminal.

About the consequences: Clearly the Gardai were authorised to have the gun, but the loss of it will hopefully have some consequences for the careless Gardai. And the woman in Drogheda? I wouldn’t be surprised if she will be released again “and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecution”. If that happens you really have to wonder what a stupid legal system we have in Ireland.

 
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