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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.

Pubs, Ireland and the Coronavirus

Important news about the opening of pubs!

It seems that the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), which is part of the HSE, sort of offered a Covid-19 deal and we can only assume/hope that this was discussed with Mr Corona.

The deal is that from 29 June, you will be safe at a 1 meter distance in a pub, as long as you don’t stay longer than 90 minutes.

Indications are that from Minute 91 things get really dangerous!

If we don’t agree to the 90 min deal and we want to stay, say 120 minutes, then the 1 meter deal is off the table and all will go back to 2 metres.

It also seems that if you are not in a pub, you are still in severe danger if the distance to another person is less than 2 meters, no matter how long you meet. Even if you don’t even face the other person and your encounter only lasts a few seconds! Safety outside of pubs (for example in busses) can be achieved with face masks but the 1 meter distance is not applicable there. 2 metres is the minimum (in nearly empty busses.) The deal ONLY applies to pubs!

It also emerged that the Coronavirus can be kept at bay if you eat a meal in a pub for at least EUR 9. If your meal is cheaper than that you are in danger and if you don’t order a meal in the pub at all, you are in mortal danger, so much so that you are not even allowed to enter the pub. It seems though, that there will be no meal supervision, so you are not forced to EAT the meal, you just need to order it. Once ordered (for more than EUR 9!), the virus will know that and will leave you alone.

P.S. Without a doubt, our authorities clearly know what they are doing and have thought it all through!

The Corona Files: It wasn’t me, says the Pangolin!

One of the most asked questions about the Coronavirus is where it came from and there are a number of theories that have various degrees of plausibility. One of them is really interesting because it introduces something new.

One of the theories is the official Chinese series of events, the other one is the one that the CIA has now adopted and that Trump will use to put penalty taxes on Chinese goods again and then there is the third one, an interesting one that thinks a little outside the box.

The Chinese Version

The Chinese Version that the communist party of China peddled as the official story from the beginning talks about a Coronavirus that came from a horseshoe bat (their face looks a little like a horseshoe). From that bat, the virus jumped to an intermediate animal and the Chinese said it was a Pangolin and from there it was transferred to humans in a wet market in Wuhan where Pangolin meat was sold. Apart from bats, Pangolins are the only mammals reported to date that have been found to be infected with a coronavirus that is related to Sars-Cov-2.

The problem with this story is that no virus was isolated from the wet market in Wuhan, instead the Chinese authorities destroyed all evidence as quickly as possible and refused to let any external (or internal) experts to check the evidence before they closed the market and disinfected it. This is like going to a murder scene with barrels of bleach before you let the crime scene investigator have a look.

Interestingly the Chinese authorities seemingly didn’t even let their own experts from the “Wuhan Institute of Virology” look for the virus on the market. The “Wuhan Institute of Virology” is one of the top experts in Coronaviruses.

The Lab Version

But the presence of the “Wuhan Institute of Virology” that explicitly was researching the Coronaviruses in the same city where the first recorded Coronavirus case was discovered raises huge suspicions and many, including US President Trump and the CIA, are certain that the virus came from this institute and either was “freed” intentionally or accidentally. The institute particularly researched into the possibility of bat to human transfer without an intermediate host. The head of the Coronavirus research at the institute, Shi Zhengli, was talking about Coronaviruses and this possible direct transfer not too long ago and in addition one of the researchers from the “Wuhan Institute of Virology”, Huang Yan Ling, who some think might have been Patient Zero, has disappeared since the start of the pandemic. She could have died and her name was removed from the Institute’s website.

Here is a story that appeared in the Scientific American about what happened regarding the virus outbreak and the Institute: www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-chinas-bat-woman-hunted-down-viruses-from-sars-to-the-new-coronavirus1/

It outlines that the genomic sequence of the virus that was found in the first patients didn’t match the sequences of the viruses Shi Zhengli’s team had sampled from bat caves. But at the same time, it was confirmed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was 96% identical to that of a coronavirus the researchers had found in horseshoe bats in Yunnan.

But oddly Yunnan about 1800km away from Wuhan! So how did this virus make it from the Yunann province to Wuhan without causing the same havoc as it caused in the city of Wuhan or the province of Hubei?

Nobody seemingly has a good answer! Maybe it was a traveling Pangolin?? :-O

Why is the Pangolin in this story?

The intermediary host is not absolutely required, it could be possible that the virus from the bat directly went to human beings. But bats and human beings are quite different and this virus was particularly “prepared” to transmit fast between human beings, so virologists think that it had to adjust to mammals that are closer to us before it could be so infectious. The poor Pangolin gets the blame, because the SARS-CoV-2 virus was found in some Pangolins, but they might not at all have been the intermediary.

Was the virus man-made?

A number of virologists who have analysed the genomic sequence have excluded that possibility. They said there are certain unusual features in the genomic sequence that would be odd for man-made viruses and they are therefore convinced that it was a natural transmission. But everything is still possible. We just don’t know enough yet.

An argument for the man-made nature was the spike protein that can be found in the virus. It was said that that HAS to be man-made, but in the meantime that spike protein concept was found in natural viruses., which reduced the small probability further.

What other intermediary host is possible?

If it wasn’t the Pangolin, another intermediary host could have been the environment in which the SARS-CoV-2 virus got ready for its damage in humans and it is possible that over a few weeks or months it jumped a number of times between the host animal and human beings to fine tune the mechanism, so to speak. A suitable animal would be either a pig OR a dog or cat, because they are a) living close to us and b) are genetically closer to us than Pangolins.

And one specific animal that could have been involved is a Racoon Dog that is bred in China for its fur and the biggest breeding location is Wuhan! :-O The Racoon Dog and the dog keepers/breeders could have swapped the the virus a few times giving the virus time to adjust to human beings, before it then started spreading between human beings.

Here is an outline of the Racoon Dog theory www.tagesspiegel.de/wissen/raetsel-um-herkunft-des-coronavirus-stammt-das-virus-aus-dem-marderhund/25775352.html (in German)

What do we know?

We know the virus is from bats. We know it made it to human beings and we know that it either was transferred directly or via a host animal.
We also know that the Chinese authorities were anything else but upfront and honest. We know that they wanted to suppress information and do not want to take any blame.
But we also know that the CIA is highly untrustworthy and has an agenda in all actions and that Trump would very much appreciate a new reason to harass China with.

Interestingly the Australian and the British secret services do not agree with the CIA’s story about the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They seem to think that the USA is as motivated to change the truth as China is.

We also know that virologists are scientists and are not necessarily experts in Secret Service politics and also do not necessarily know everything about how a virus could have been made to look like it has been made by nature instead of being man-made.

Where does that leave us?

It leaves us very much in the dark! We know we can’t trust nobody and we know that we can’t find out ourselves.

The racoon dog option would be a nice explanation, but it is just grasping for straws. I could easily see some sort of accidental escape of the virus from the Institute of Virology as plausible, but what do I know!

The total control aspect

One thing concerns me and it is in this context NOT Bill Gates or 5G or Anthony Fauci! The Chinese government and the communist party who is the government got under a lot of pressure towards the end of last year due to the protests in Hongkong and we know from the situation in East Germany that totalitarian governments have to be VERY afraid of civil unrest. So shutting that protest down and at the same time increasing the control of their own people would be extremely convenient for the Chinese government.

The introduction of the tracing app that became mandatory in China to enter public buildings and shops and even public transport is a brilliant tool to totally control their citizens and could not have been introduced for ANY other reason without some opposition. The RAPID introduction in a very efficient way despite the massive size of the country and the huge data and processing requirements could indicate that a LOT was prepared and ready to go. The relative regional limitation of the virus epidemic also is a little odd when you compare it to what happened in other countries.

So if you want to believe a scenario whereby the virus was intentionally used to cause havoc to introduce severe population control mechanism, you can find heaps of plausible indicators for this theory.

Either way, it seems that the Pangolin is definitely innocent!

[The title photo is from the Flickr stream of David Brossard shared under Creative Commons licensing: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/]

The Corona Files: We did go too far!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote a poem that is called “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and when I went to school, we had to learn it. I did exceptionally badly that day and got the worst mark on reciting the poem that I ever got in my whole school “career”. So it is a poem that I will never completely forget. One of the lines is “Die Geister die ich rief, werd ich nicht mehr los.” and that translates to “The spirits that I called, I can’t get rid of anymore.”

We are clearly still in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis (some think we are only at the beginning of it!), but a lot has happened and I am genuinely and deeply concerned about the long term effects that policy decisions had already and will have on our behaviour to each other.

The “We are all in it together!” is long forgotten and fear and panic has replaced the we-will-fight-through-this attitude from before.

I came across a whole range of scenarios that worry me! Here are just a few examples:

1) The Police State

Over the Easter weekend when the much stricter restrictions where in place a friend of mine and his partner went on a food shopping trip for his and her parents who are elderly and are cocooning. Because they live a little bit apart at the outskirts of Dublin, they had to travel a bit to shops and then to deliver the food. On their way, they were stopped at SIX garda checkpoints and they were never able to deliver the food. On one of the checkpoints an ill informed garda gave them nearly the full “E-E-E-E” treatment that was used as garda strategy that weekend. The four Es is Engagement / Explain / Encourage / Enforcement. (www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2020/0409/1129677-what-to-expect-from-gardai-during-covid-19-restrictions/)

They were told that they are NOT allowed to drive to their parents to bring them food despite the fact that “caring for the elderly” was clearly classed as ESSENTIAL during the Covid-19 crisis. They were also threatened with legal action if they don’t turn around. Nonsensically, the garda told them that instead they should bring all their shopping to the next garda station so that the food would be delivered by gardai to their parents. (There was no answer on how to deal with frozen food.)
Maybe this was just ONE garda on a power trip or an extremely badly briefed garda? But at another one of the six checkpoints, they were berated by a garda because two people (who live together!!!) were in the same car. :-O There is no rule or law in Ireland that disallows that.
By the way: They had to give up and turn around to avoid being prosecuted or arrested…and the parents didn’t get the food for Easter!

2) Inexcusable Misinformation

A situation that was not related to Covid-19 forced me to be in A&E in a Dublin hospital 2 weeks ago. I was there with my partner and as it is normal and natural during the waiting period and between examinations we sat next to each other and talked about what happened. The shift of the office based A&E staff had changed and the new admin at the reception had taken over. 10 minutes later he spotted us and came running out from behind his glass screen, shouting at me for not keeping a social distance. I explained to him that this was my partner who I live with. But that didn’t stop him! Instead he got even more excited and told me that this does not matter in the slightest. We are in a hospital and therefore have to keep a distance of 2m from each other.
He either didn’t understand the rules OR he was taught nonsensical rules and didn’t question them.

3) Blinding Fear

Someone I am “friends” with on Facebook wrote in a Facebook conversation
during the week:

“If people meet and don’t keep the distance at the moment, they could infect others. The infected people could die. So meeting others is akin to murder!”

I am lost for words in this case. How can any sane and sensible person draw that conclusion?? The person who wrote that clearly lost all reason and I can only conclude that this is caused by a blinding fear.

4) Attacking the people who help!

Luckily we have not reached the lowest of lows in Ireland: In the UK, Health Care workers are being attacked and abused for being “virus spreaders”. Tires of ambulances are slashed and cars of hospital employees are damaged. The ITV news on 15 April had this report:

How can it come to this? My guess is: Irrational fear, stirred by sensational media reports. This is shocking stuff!

5) No Way Out

At some point in the not toooo distant future, we will have to go back to offices again and kids will have to go to schools. But the virus will not be gone! So how will we deal with that?
In Denmark, where they are a little faster with lifting restrictions and thought about letting young children return to school first, rapidly 18,000 parents declared that they will refuse letting their kids go back to school.

How will we deal with a loosening of the restrictions? Will we also refuse to go to work? Let kids go to school? If a vaccine is another 12-18 months away, will some of us lock themselves in at home and refuse to go to work until then? How will YOU react when you have to go back to work? Enter a room again with other people inside?

In my opinion, we have definitely overdone it! We have over-egged the pudding!! And it is all based on fear that has been whipped up by our authorities, lead by the government and advised by medical officers and epidemiologists.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the lockdown was the right thing to do, BUT what did the Taoiseach do to “incentivise” the country? He said on 09 March that in Ireland 85,000 people could die from the Coronavirus. (www.independent.ie/world-news/coronavirus/up-to-85000-irish-people-could-die-from-coronavirus-in-worst-case-scenario-taoiseach-indicates-as-three-more-diagnosed-39029363.html) This was not wrong information, but it was information that was used to get us worried so that we would adhere to the restrictions.

Later on, language was used that suggested to us that our lives were in serious and immediate danger. All measures were “to save lives”. “Stay home stay safe!!” This is also not wrong, but we can’t be surprised that then many look at the other people on the same footpath as a threat to their life. Or when leaving your home to go back to work is seen as risking ones life.

And now you see where “The spirits that I called, I can’t get rid of anymore.” becomes relevant! We over did it! We became so fearful that the care that people showed for each other in the beginning turned into people being prepared to report their neighbours for the smallest Covid-19 rule infringement.

It is a little early to think about things going back to “normality”, but what type of society do we want when we are going back to a sort of normality? If you have certain preferences, don’t let others pound fears and believes in you that are counterproductive!

Assess for yourself and judge what makes sense and what doesn’t. Then check with people that you trust if your assessment is reasonably and logical. Be prepared to learn and to speak up if necessary!

Oh and never ever forget that MOST others don’t do the (questionable) things they do to hurt or harm you, but because they don’t know better. Always be compassionate!

The Corona Files: Get me out of here!

In Ireland, restrictions of public life started on 13 March, so we are one month into it and last Friday it was announced that the lockdown will continue for at least another 3.5 weeks until 05 May.

So it is much too early to pain for a “back to normality”, we need a lot of patience, but at the same time, it is the right time to think (or learn) about how we will be able to get out of this lockdown situation again.

There are a lot of people that think that as long as we are patient and stay away from other people, the virus will disappear again and we can go back to normality. However, this is a highly unlikely scenario!! The Coronavirus will be with us for a long long time and can (and probably will) flare up again and again.

If you think this through, then there is no straight forward and simple way to lift the lockdown. Not on 05 May and not on 05 June or 05 July unless something else happens.

The job description of a of an efficient virus includes the requirement “must spread…ideally like wildfire”. And in that respect the Coronavirus is a very efficient virus. Not as efficient as measles, but doing a good job nevertheless.

Virus Reproduction numbers are essential

The efficiency is expressed through the “max speed of spread” or reproduction number, which is called R0 (R Zero). For measles this is around 15 and for the Coronavirus it is up to 3, for the influenza virus (flu) it is around 1.3. That means that one infected person will infect 15 others for measles and 3 others for the Coronavirus. 15 is crazy, but even 3 (or on some areas around 2.2) is exponential spread. So to reign it in the effective reproduction or Reff (R effective) has to be brought down to 1 or better below one. That would mean then that one infected person will infect just one other person or maybe even less than one person. At that point the spread is linear or is decreasing (when smaller than 1).

In Ireland we have the advantage that the country is quite small and this combined with relatively fast action that was taken, we are allegedly at the point where Reff is at around 1. I say “allegedly” because I think that the numbers of infected people are MUCH underestimated in Ireland due to the low number of tests that have been carried out. But lets hope that we are actually close to 1.

At that point, the virus is far from being gone. It is just more under control and therefore it is expected that the hospitals will be able to deal with virus patients better.

So what Reff doe the authorities aim for? The simple and complicated answer is “as low as possible”. But be aware that it is unlikely to be Zero, because the Coronavirus is devious and smart. It is hiding its presence for 5-14 days and only after that you will get symptoms. During these 5-14 days a carrier can infect a LOT of people.

With R0 being around 3, ONE single carrier could easily infect all his/her social contacts in a week and for a busy person that could amount to 3-4 per day. So in, let’s say 10 days ONE single highly socially active person could infect 20-30 people and BOOM there is a new cluster that can lead to another wildfire-like spread.

How to lift the lockdown?

If we lifted the lockdown completely, we could be back in a uncontrollable situation within 1-2 weeks. So we can’t do it that way. In Austria they are talking about lifting the limitations for smaller shops and trades people on 14 April and then for hairdressers (WHY them!?) on 01 May and then for the first few pubs and restaurants in mid May. Schools will still stay closed at that time. This is just an idea, a concept that might get changed faster than you can read this blog post, but it shows what we also might have to do.

What do we want to achieve?

That is an important question! The virus can be stopped by only one thing according to virologists and that is a high enough immunity in the population so that it can’t spread anymore. In virology terms, this is called “herd immunity”. This term got a bad meaning because the UK tried to wait for natural “herd immunity” at the outbreak of Covid-19 and now many think that “herd immunity” doesn’t work. This is totally incorrect. Herd immunity is not the same as letting the virus go rampant. Herd immunity just describes that 60-70% of the herd (or population) reached immunity. This can be achieved in two ways: Either they get immunity because they were infected, got through the infection and are now immune OR because they were vaccinated.

The natural immunity is still not certain for the Coronavirus. A trial was done with 5 monkeys that showed that after an infection and going through Covid-19 the monkeys got immune and didn’t show any symptoms when they were re-infected afterwards. But monkeys are only similar not identical to human beings, so more tests are needed to be absolutely certain. The indications are good though. The second problem is that we have no clue yet how long the immunity will last. Some viruses (chicken pox) will be kept away because our body will develop immunity forever, but with other viruses, the immunity is time limited. And with a bad ass Coronavirus, it is POSSIBLE that the immunity will only last a few weeks or months or maybe one or two years. We have no clue yet about that!

What do we need to reach herd immunity?

If we need 60% of the population to have survived Covid-19, we need a LOT more infected people than we have at the moment. Right now, there are around 9000 people tested and found infected in Ireland. IT is assumed that in countries with a high test rate around 80% had the virus and didn’t show any or no severe symptoms, so in a best case scenario the 9000 are our 20% and then we would have had a total of around 45,000 people that were infected and survived and now might have immunity. Because the test rate in Ireland is super low, let’s be generous and let’s assume that we actually have only 10% of detected cases. Then the total immunity level in Ireland after Covid-19 would be around 90,000. This is a immunity level of measly 1.8%!!

So to achieve herd immunity (60%) we need to get another 2.79 million people infected. :-O Imagine! And this has to happen soo slow that the Intensive Care Units will not get overwhelmed again. So maybe at a rate of 90,000 every 1.5 months (at the moment we might have 90,000 in one month with catastrophic consequences for ICUs). With this infection rate, it could take 31 *1.5= 46.5 months (!) to reach herd immunity!

Luckily there is an expectation that in a best case scenario we will have a vaccine in about 12-18 months. So we wouldn’t have to go through the whole infection process of 46.5 months, but would only have to do it for around 18 months. Still in these 18 months we would have to continue protect (=shelter) the high-risk groups and we would have to control the planned infection process constantly and be prepared to shut down life again as soon as it threatens to get out of control.

You can see that this is not an easy situation and that we will be dealing with that WELL after 05 May. This is a bit of a grim prospect, right!?

It will be interesting to see IF Austria will go through with their plan and it will also be interesting to keep a close eye on Denmark and other countries.

I expect that the lifting of the lockdown will have to be a very careful gradual lifting ALL the time being prepared to go into full shut down mode again if needed.

Smart Distancing + Tracing App

An alternative possibility would be to move from Social Distancing to Smart Distancing, in this case we would stay away from people that could be infected and we would continue to quarantine them for 2 weeks as soon as they get some symptoms. We would still need to cocoon the high risk group and couldn’t go back to normal international travel and large events (concerts, football matches, olympic games etc.). And we also would have to combine that with a HOPEFULLY anonymous contact tracing app that would tell you when you had contact with someone who is infected and once you had contact, you would have to self-quarantine immediately (and the app information would have to be proof to your employer that you will have to stay at home for 2 weeks). We also would need LOTS of antibody tests so that people with Coronavirus antibodies would be allowed to freely move around again without having to quarantine.

I am not a modeller or epidemiologist, so all the “models” I described above are very much simplified, but it shows that the Social Distancing and “Stay at home” measures are 100% required to protect the health care system at the moment, but they are not an ideal approach to reach a form of “normality” again.

What do you think about Smart Distancing and a Corona tracing app? If antibody tests are available, you might have to check yourself every two weeks or so. Would you be ok with that? And what if the app was NOT anonymised? Like in China now, the authorities would be able to trace EVERY move you make. Would you consider using the app still?

 
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