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The Corona Files: Don’t trust the statistics!

After 79 days of Corona cases, China announced on 19 March that they had NO more new cases. (www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/19/china-reports-no-domestic-cases-of-coronavirus-for-first-time-since-outbreak-began)

Not just a a lot less than before! No, NONE! Not a SINGLE one! Fishy? Dodgy? Untrustworthy? You bet! But it seems that many did believe (or wanted to believe) that a totalitarian government, that is dead set on totally controlling its citizens and that didn’t have much regard for the truth in the past, would suddenly be totally trustworthy. It seems even some governments were mislead (or just not so smart!?) and might have based some of their strategies on the most likely fake numbers from China. (www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-boris-johnsons-government-reportedly-furious-with-china-2020-3)

Now it even emerged that the CIA is doing whatever possible to find out accurate numbers. (www.nytimes.com/2020/04/02/us/politics/cia-coronavirus-china.html) There are reports that the number of deaths in connection with the Coronavirus in China is not 3,326 but possibly well over 40,000. :-O

With all that attention on the Chinese numbers and with daily announcements from all other affected countries about how many new infected cases were detected and also how many people died, some have become a bit obsessed with the Covide-19 stats. If you check the numbers every day or if you frequently check the updates from the Johns Hopkins University on the site www.domo.com/coronavirus-tracking or even worse on the 24×7 Coronavirus Pandemic Livestream (www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgylp3Td1Bw), you could really despair.

But how much can we trust all these numbers? Actually, we can’t trust their accuracy at all and there are lots of reasons for it, which I will try to explain as much as possible.

Wait! Are you saying all numbers are wrong?

Yes, it does look like that! The number of infected cases, the number of deaths and the number of recovered patients all do not reflect the correct situation.

Are not even the number of deaths correct?

Many countries have different methods of counting the people that have died in connection with Covid-19. Some countries surpress some numbers and others might overexaggerate them.
In China it seems that the numbers are seriously below the real situation. In Italy, only the people that die in hospital are considered in the Covid-19 statistic, not the people that die at home. This could also apply to other countries and would result in a much too low number.
But there is a flip side! In most countries a detected infection means that the patient is added to the Covid-19 statistic even if the cause of death was a different one. Somebody put it like this: Imagine someone falls of the 10th storey of a building and after he crashes on the street a tank drives over him. If he miraculously survives this and is brought to a hospital where a Coronavirus infection is detected, his subsequent death will be added to the Covid-19 statistic. But then some countries don’t do that, but have separate stats for patients that die of pneumonia, independent from an infection.
You can already see that it is a mess that nobody can really fully understand. But the bottom line is that the figures are NOT consistent and therefore not correct.

And what about the figures of infected people?

You can only detect infections if you test. In some countries a LOT of tests are carried out. But it is still FAR away from mass tests and since 80% of the people show only very mild symptoms, there are probably a LOT more people infected even in the countries were many tests are carried out.

Germany has a quite low number of deaths and the – to me – odd explanation for this is “because Germany tests a LOT”. The fact that they test a lot, might mean that the number of infections is closer to the truth than in other countries, but how does knowing if someone is infected influence the number of people that die? Strange!

In Ireland, on the other hand, the tests were stopped a number of times due to a shortage of test kits and now the shortage of some substances in the labs. In addition the one-symptom indicator that would get you a test place was changed to a two-symptom requirement to keep people away from the test centres. So there MIGHT be a situation where a LOT more people have or had a mild infection than we will ever know.

Bottom line: Only people that have been tested can be negative or positive. And if you don’t test many, you will not find many infected people.

Does that mean someone is intentionally lying to us?

In China, many think that this is really the case. In other countries, it is probably not an intentional lie, but it is a misguided trust in statistics that is unjustifiable. But you can be certain that you are not hearing the truth and nothing but the trust!

When, for example, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that “in two weeks, we could have 15,000 infected patients”. He was describing what one scenario (possibly a worst case scenario) said to frighten people, so that we would be more willing to follow the social distancing and lockdown measures. This is much more effective than if he had said, “well experts are not too sure, but it could be between 2,000 and 15,000 infected”.

So propaganda is always part of it!

And then there is sensationalism! We know that in the times of 24×7 news channels, the TV and radio stations that constantly report about the news in this world (CNN, Sky News, etc) will jump on the smallest bit of information and will make the biggest story out of it if they can.

What do all these wrong numbers mean?

It really means that we have not the slightest clue internationally where we are. Nationally, the growth rates are an indicator how things are developing in every country, but comparisons are a dangerous thing!

And if we don’t know where we stand, it is possible that the Coronavirus is not at all deadlier than the “normal” influenza virus!! :-O We currently assume that the death rate is around 2-4% for Corona and only around 0.1-0.5% for the influenza, but if only SOME of the infected people are counted, then that obviously will make the virus look a LOT more dangerous. If 100,000 infections are found then 1,000 deaths sound completely different than if 1,000,000 infections are found of which 900,000 were just not detected.

Will we ever find out what the correct numbers are?

No! Actually, we will find out what the number of deaths were and we can compare this number with the number of ALL deaths in a country in previous years. But we will never find out what the total number of infected people was. It is VERY unlikely that mass antibody tests will be carried out.

And the number of recovered people is also wrong?

Sure! If you don’t know how many have been infected, you can’t know either how many have recovered. In addition, not every country does carry out another test AFTER the symptoms are gone (why would you!), so then there is never the formal test-based confirmation that the patient now has no more Coronavirus in him or her.

But the number of deaths are horrendously high, how can you say the virus is possibly not a killer virus?

Yes, the numbers look huge if you don’t compare them. At the time of writing this 14,681 people died in Italy, that is as much as around 73 plane crashes of Ryanair-sized planes. That is a HUGE number. Imagine how shocked we would be if there was only ONE plane crash! 73 is crazy!

But then we need to look at other years and we will find that, for example, in the flu season 2016/2017 more than 24,000 people died of the flu in Italy. So only in a few months we will know if the Covid-19 death rate will really be significantly above the 2016/2017 numbers.

Oh and in 2016/2017 there was no lockdown, no panic, no new laws and countries didn’t build mass morgues in city centres. I don’t want to minimise or banalise the death of people and I also want to stress that the social distancing and lockdown regulations were probably the correct measures to contain the problem.

The virus IS different than the influenza virus and because we have not even a partial immunity from previous infections, it is running rampant, Also the health systems in most countries can’t keep up because the infection for a small number of cases is a LOT more severe than any influenza infection in recent years has been.

Also the numbers will grow further, so we could have well over 30,000 deaths from the Coronavirus in Italy alone and that would be well over the 2016/2017 numbers. Every single death means a family will lose a mother, a father, a grandfather or a grandmother or an uncle or aunt. That is sad and very painful and for everyone affected, the statistics are totally irrelevant. But we need to try to lock at the human pain and sorrow separately from the situational assessment that is based on statistics to be able to consider what are the right steps forward.

So after reading all this, what is the advise?

Don’t trust the numbers and don’t let the numbers make you anxious! also be prepared to question the information that is put in front of you by media and politicians!

Accuracy, truthfulness and reliability are minimum requirements to consider what the right next steps are!

The Corona Files: Social Distancing & Lock Down

Sobering Statistics

The Corona Virus is continuing its rampage!

At the time of writing this, there have been 271,620 infections with 87,363 recovered. And sadly 11,280 people have died. That is more than 57 (!!) Ryanair plane loads full of people and imagine how shocked we would be if only ONE plane crashed.

Risk Group or Not: Prevent!

So in actual numbers it is terrifying and a lot of us have started to feel quite anxious or at least concerned about the impact that the virus could have on our own life. It is still the case that the majority of fatalities are in an older age group and/or with people that have some underlying illnesses, but there are plenty of young people that have heart issues or asthma or other circulatory problems that could be badly affected.

If you are in a higher risk group, stay away from other people and wash your hands really well when you have touched items outside in areas where potentially infected people have been and don’t touch your face until you have washed the hands.

With these steps, you will drastically reduce the risk! You will not have to wear a mask, but if you feel safer with a mask or a scarf, then wear it. Fear and anxiety is a bad thing and it doesn’t make sense to suffer it just because you don’t want to be seen with a mask.

If you are super healthy and could have a guarantee that there are no health issues that could require you to be put on a ventilator, it would be best for you and for society as a whole to get infected asap, then completely isolate until the symptoms are totally gone and afterwards be safe from the virus AND not have the risk of being a carrier anymore. Unfortunately, though there is no such 100% guarantee.

There is very good news about immunity: Research on monkeys has shown that immunity will be achieved after an initial infection and once immunity has been achieved, then the monkey who is a second time exposed to the virus will also not pass it on to others anymore. But this research has only been done on a small test group of monkeys and we don’t know either if us human beings react exactly the same as monkeys.

Social Distancing

So to protect the risk groups, the concept of “social distancing” has been developed. The name is very unfortunate, it should be physical distancing or spatial separation, because we don’t want to move away socially from our friends, colleagues and families. But for the rest of this post I will still – reluctantly – use the bad term.

The idea behind social distancing is perfectly expressed in the graph below by @garrywarshaw.

Image

By infecting less people initially, even the multiplication (or compound) effect of an infection chain a significant reduction of total number of infections can be achieved. This is the one and only reason for social distancing.

It does SLOW DOWN the spread of the virus. Social Distancing doesn’t stop it and it also doesn’t stop that we might get infected eventually. But a calculation by a university in the UK showed that just protecting the elderly (for example by locking them away) would not be enough. There would still be 8 times more hospital beds required than they have available.

With a drastic slow down on the other hand, the cases that need to be admitted to hospital will be looked after correctly. A lot of us will still have to get infected to achieve a immunisation (herd immunity) of a larger group of people. So our attitude to an infection has to change! Nobody wants to have a 2 week long bad flu wth the risk of a hospital stay and a low – but still higher than zero – risk of death, but if we accept that it is NOT the worst case scenario if we get infected.

Stigma of Infection

Right now, it seems as if people really think negatively of someone who gets infected. :-O I call that an “Infection Stigma” and it makes absolutely no sense. Getting infected doesn’t mean the person misbehaved, it also doesn’t mean the person is and will remain to be dangerous forever, it doesn’t mean that that person has done society a dis- service and it doesn’t mean that the person will probably die anyway. Not at all!!

The person will most likely survive; has helped society to reach herd immunity faster and does not pose a risk once the two weeks of symptoms are over.

So please stop stigmatising people who got infected by the virus and stop panicking over the possibility that you might get it.

Will we have a lock down?

Nobody wants a lock down really. A lock down means that nobody is allowed to leave the house or apartment anymore unless it is to go to work, to buy food or to go to a doctor.

A lock down is NOT needed where people stick to the social distancing rules. But where people don’t adhere these rules, the only other way to ensure that they stay away from each other is to force them to stay inside.

I saw some pictures from Spain, where a cyclist was fined for going on a training cycle on his own. Yes, he broke the existing law and that is what he was fined for. But the law that he broke didn’t help to improve the Corona virus situation in the slightest. He was NO danger to himself or anyone. In Bavaria in Germany where a moderate lock down is implemented from today, the rules have been created better: You are still allowed to go for a walk as long as it is on your own or only with the people that live with you.

I can understand why the Spanish government used their all-encompassing law, it is MUCH easier to control than a more differentiated law. But this whole situation could take quite some time and rules only make sense if they help improving the situation.

So what can we do in Ireland to avoid a lock down? Simple! Adhere to the Social Distancing rules!!

When will it all be over?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. Virologists think that in about 2-3 months it could be over…at least for now. The problem is that when winter returns, the virus could come back.

There is another possible scenario and that assumes that the limitations or restrictions to life are less severe (e.g. schools will restart for higher classes at some point and work will resume) in that case, the restrictions could be lifted then applied again, then lifted and applied again. Whenever the virus comes back the infections will be allowed to rise and then will be controlled through the application of restrictions again. In this on-off scenario, the whole Corona / Covid-19 issue could go on for around 2 years. :-O

I heard about faster tests and a vaccine. Is that true?

Yes and no! Faster tests are being developed at the moment. They will probably be very similar to a pregnancy test where you pee on a strip that tells you instantly through a colour change if you have the virus or not. This is not as easy as it sounds because it has to have a high reliability. But research is on the right path and will probably have a solution relatively soon. Then tests will have to start, which will take another bit. Until then we only have the relatively cumbersome lab test that checks the presence of the virus in a throat swab and – as far as I know – that also can detect antibodies as indicators that you had been infected.

A vaccine is also not too far away from being developed. But even when scientists found a vaccine, that doesn’t mean that you will be able to get it. Currently vaccines needs to go through a very long and expensive trial process, which could delay the availability for patients for another 12-18 months based on current regulatory rules. But maybe the rules will have to get changed so that at least health professionals can be vaccinated earlier. But there is a risk of severe side effects and politicians have to decide if they want to accept this risk (and insure the vaccination producer against it).

What should I do for now?

Three things:
1) Stay upbeat and positive by creating a new routine during the isolated living
2) Adhere to all Social Distancing rules and if necessary, obey the lock down.
3) Keep in close contact with people that live on their own, with elderly people and with anybody else who could do with your support. Isolation is a challenge for most people and we need to be there for each other to get through it. Be proactive with your friend. Don’t wait for them to tell you they need help, but contact them regularly to check if they need anything.

We all go through the same situation and a shared experience can pull people together and will provide the support needed so that everyone can get through it. If you are strong, provide the support and if you are challenged ask for support! Let’s help each other and be there for each other!!

 

Failte Ireland lies to International Media!?

I love Dublin! I am living here for ages and for more than 11 years I wrote a online publication about cultural events in Dublin, but during that time I also have seen how the official groups responsible for tourism (especially in Dublin!) do less and less and expect more and more money to be dropped by tourists.

New Year’s Eve is not the most exciting day of the year in Dublin and if anyone asked me, I would strongly recommend that potential visitors stay far away between 24 December and 02/03 January. It is just sooo disappointing if you go to a city for these celebrated days and there is NOTHING happening.

In previous years some attempts were made to make Dublin a little more interesting at least over New Year with the New Year’s Festival Dublin. It consisted of some events on New Year’s eve (many years ago we even had fireworks!) and then more events and activities on New Year’s Day. But in 2018 all this changed again and it is the poorest and most disappointing events programme for the New Year’s Festival in at least 5, maybe 10 years!

There are just two light shows at Customs House. They are free, but needed tickets (which are all gone) and then there is a gig (not free!!) in the 3Arena. Apart from that there is not a single official event and NO events on New Year’s Day. Private Fireworks are forbidden in Ireland, nobody pays fro public Fireworks, so New Year’s Eve is a Non-Event!

That’s the facts!! But Failte Ireland is of the opinion that the facts shouldn’t get in the way of their “Fake news” marketing!

900 media representatives from 20 countries were invited to come to Ireland just before New Year’s and Failte Ireland is trying to convince them of something that is clearly untrue.

A RTE News article here says:

“The New Year’s Festival in Dublin is set to showcase tourism in the capital, and encourage more people to visit the capital and Ireland in 2019, according to tourism groups.”

“Liam Campbell from Fáilte Ireland’s International Publicity team said this year’s New Year’s Festival promises to be the most impressive end of year celebration Dublin has ever seen.”

What an amount of codswallop!

Do I think people should come to Dublin? Absolutely YES! It is a great place with lots of free and non free events during the year. This is mostly not thanks to Failte Ireland or Dublin City, but luckily we have lots of great people and businesses in Ireland that do a great job. But PLEASE tell people that they should avoid the Christmas and New Year’s period if they don’t want to be disappointed.

The GDPR Bloodbath – Companies will die!

If you still don’t know that something happened on 25 May that affected electronic communications then you you don’t use e-mail or the Internet (and then you won’t get to read this anyway ;-) ) or maybe you have never bought anything on the Internet and have not subscribed to any newsletters (apart from the Dublin Event Guide :-) ).

In an over-hyped panic state many companies and organisations who dod have clear permissions from their customers/subscribers asked ALL their subscribers to re-subscribe. Others who had mailing lists that were decades old and that were populated in ways that would not be compatible with the new GDPR rules had no choice. I got hundreds if e-mails! Initially senders asked me to re-subscribe but then it all changed and they mails were a mere notification of the new GDPR rules.

I had looked into the new regulations well in advance and since everyone who gets the Dublin Event Guide had to request to get added and then had to confirm that they REALLY want to get added, I have clear documentation of the request so I didn’t have to bother you again. But imagine this:

A typical mailing list has an opening rate of 10-40%. That means 10-40% of the recipients open a mail. The rest is too busy right now and plans to open at a later stage (but might never get to it) OR they have lost interest in the information OR they are not actively using that mail account anymore. So if a company has 10,000 subscribers and they did send the GDPR mail “Please confirm your details, otherwise we will have to delete you.” They already lost 6000 – 9000 subscribers the moment they hit the SEND button. Let’s be generous and say they ONLY lost 7000. Now the 3000 remaining people would have confirm that they still want to receive the newsletter. But since all mails arrived on one day and people got annoyed with so many re-subscribe mails. many decided to take the opportunity to get rid of some unwanted newsletters. So where normally maybe 40-50% would have confirmed, I wouldn’t be surprised if on Wednesday and Thursday of this week only about 20-30% actually did subscribe (and that number could still be too optimistic.) Let’s continue with 25%.

So after one e-mail and the introduction of GDPR the company has just 750 people left on their list! From 10,000 to 750 with one e-mail! That is an absolute disaster for a company that depends on online sales or on online promotions to achieve online or offline sales.

The result will be a highly probably loss in sales and revenue and because the company might have lost the “innovateability” that they had when they started originally and also runs on higher costs in comparison to the start-up days, I wouldn’t be surprised if companies will have to close! :-O

An odd and difficult situation. But it is too late now. :-O

Project Arts Centre: Get two cans of paint and achieve a BIG impact!

Some people are skilled in using minimalist means to get max. effect and the Project Arts Centre is definitely good at that!

They tried it in 2016 and were very successful with it and they just copied the same recipe again and seemingly will get a similar maximised effect. Others would have to pay THOUSANDS for it, the Project Arts Centre just had to pay for two cans of paint.

So what is this clever recipe? Here it goes: Get a recognised artist, give him a can of white paint and a can of red paint and get him to paint a controversial message on the wall of your building. The artist can get help to speed up the process by the way. And don’t worry about the fact that not tooo many people will actually see the painted on message. Just make sure that the “authorities” will find out about it. (In 2016 it was Dublin City who had a problem with the missing planning permission for the “advertisement message”, this time it is the Charities’ Regulator.)

Hope and pray that the authorities have a big problem with that controversial message on the wall and tell you off and DEMAND that it will be removed. Now you get the press involved and tell them about it. Because it is a “sensational” thing that you are told off, they will hopefully write about it. And bingo! You didn’t have to hang a single poster of pay for expensive ad space online or on lamp posts and you reach more people than anyone else.

When you are told off, don’t fight it, but declare immediately that you will be happy to remove the international respected artists’ piece of art work. Then turn the removal of the message into an event by giving a date and time when you will remove it and with a bit of luck you might get the press to queue up to get a cool picture of the destroying of public art and if that goes into the newspapers and TV news, you get a second BIG exposure.

And if EVER again there is another message you feel passionate about, just rinse and repeat! The recipe works as long as there are authorities that complain. And in case there is no complaining authorities anymore. don’t worry, the message just stays where it is and that way still has some effect.

Sooo smart! :-) The controversial message was “Repeal the 8th!” and the Charities’ Regulator says it breaks the rule that forbids charities to engage in political activities. The artist is Maser and the removal will happen on Monday morning at 11:00.

 

 
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