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The Corona Files: Next step of lifting restrictions will NOT be taken

The news is out and it is not good!

Pubs will stay closed for AT LEAST another four weeks until 31 August and – let’s face it – it is highly unlikely that anything significant will change in the next three weeks, considering the worldwide Covid situation. So who knows until when they will stay closed.

This obviously also has a significant impact on any live entertainment going forward and will not only leave pub owners and employees in a challenging situation, but will be devastating news for all the musicians that we have in Ireland.

A curfew for restaurants and pubs serving food of 23:00 was introduced as well (takeaways are allowed to stay open longer) and face masks will be mandatory in shops from 10 August.

And if you were hoping that there will be SOME good news elsewhere….not so!

Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, San Marino and Monaco were taken off the green list and seemingly no other countries were added.

The limits for crowds will also stay in place: 50 for indoor events and 200 for outdoor events.

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And ALL this while we currently only have 448 cases of reported Covid infections in Ireland. If we multiply this by 10 to catch non-reported infections, then we have in the whole country just 4480 active cases. If we assume a population of 4,921,500, you need to meet 1098 (!!) people before you meet ONE Covid sufferer. 😮

Can we survive another while without pubs? Sure we can if we have to! But looking at how public health policy is made at the moment, the makers of the rules seem to believe in the fairy tale that Ireland can eradicate the Coronavirus. Does that sound likely to you? What is your guess, when will pubs open? And will we have to cancel Christmas?

(Clarification: The number 448 is the sum of all cases that were reported in the last 14 days and is therefore the number of the cases that can assumed to be still active.)

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: Covid Nonsense – Part 1

The amount of nonsense that is communicated about Covid-19 and what should be done with or against it is just astonishing. And interestingly that is not limited to Social Media channels, or people’s own opinions but includes other media and even Government announcements and policies.

In this post I will attempt to analyse a few of the misconceptions, misinterpretations and confusing nonsense, but I expect that this is only one of a few posts. There sis just too much dodgy information out there to pack all in one post.

Social Distancing – Where do the 2 meters come from?

The concept of social distancing was created to avoid infection by droplet. As long as experts thought that the main infection route is through droplets that are more or less spat out while sneezing, coughing or talking, they also thought that staying away from each other would reduce the risk sufficiently to be save.

But bit by bit, we found out that an additional infection route is through aerosolised virus in the air in enclosed spaces. And now the expectation is that around 10% (only!) of infections happen through touch and then transfer of the virus to the nose, mouth or eyes. 40-45% through droplets and the rest aerosol. So in comparison to the beginning, we now have a completely changed understanding of the transfer. And it also looks like our mad washing of your hands, might have been a little over the top!

The distance between two people protects against droplets because these droplets fly a certain distance before they drop down on the ground. But it is very very strange that in different countries the droplets seem to travel different distances!

Here are the distance rules for different countries:

WHO: 1m
Hongkong: 1m
Austria: 1m
Italy: 1m
Spain: 1.5m
Germany: 1.5m
USA: 6ft (1.82m)
UK: 6ft (1.82m)
Ireland: 2m

Do you see anything odd? Yep, Hongkong and Austria (and as far as I know also Norway and Sweden), who all had relatively low death rates followed the WHO advise and the 1m distance was perfectly fine. Germany, also with a low death rate, pushed it to 1.5m. But for some inexplicable reason the droplets seem to fly MUCH further in Ireland.

Can we trust our scientists and doctors and politicians if they overexaggerate already with that simple issue?

Ireland got away lightly

Not so! Don’t be fooled by a relatively low number of deaths in Ireland. You always have to compare the number of deaths with the amount of people in a country. (Not with the number of infections, because that number depends on how good you test!). And compared to the population, Ireland is at the time of writing this No. 8 in the list of European states. Sure, that is better than in the top 5, but 8th is much higher than many – who just look at comparison of the Irish 1500 death with maybe the UK’s 34,000 – would expect.

Ireland did actually not do too well. And definitely not as well as DOUBLE the distance for Social Distancing in comparison, should have achieved.

Temperature Check in future

One of the ideas for the re-opening of society is that every time you enter your work place or an restaurant or other enclosed spaces, your temperature should be checked and if it is below 37.5 degrees you are good to go in and if it is above that, you will be rejected.

The HSE on their current website “A high temperature or fever, for most people, is when your body temperature is 38C or higher. This can be a sign that you are unwell. It usually means you have an infection such as a cold.” The NHS in the UK says “A fever is usually when your body temperature is 37.8C or higher. You may feel warm, cold or shivery.”

So going by this, both assume that 37.5 is not fever yet. We also know that some people never have a raised temperature even when they are sick and other people have temperature fluctuations even when they are not sick.

As a result the “cold” people would be allowed in even if they were Covid-19 infected and the “hot” people would be rejected even if they are perfectly healthy.

But even worse: The people with a temperature of 37.5 degrees of above will just get rejected at that place they wanted to enter. Nobody will tell them, hey, you should go home immediately and stay there for the next 2 weeks. No, they are free to try the next restaurant and the next one again and so on.

Temperature tests are an extremely weak route to “diagnose” infected people.

Flatten the curve vs “Let’s finish the job”

In one of his many not-so-succesful attempts to motivate people to believe or trust him, The Health Minister Simon Harris said on 10 May “We got this – let’s finish the job.” This statement is in the face of a pandemic total nonsense. We can not “finish the job”, because that implies that ‘we can kill that virus’. That is not the case and interestingly was never planned! All the government wanted to achieve was to “flatten the curve”. And THAT was achieved. This graph gives an indication and it is also in a tweet by Simon Harris. twitter.com/SimonHarrisTD/status/1260882652439207936
Now that the curve is flat and ICU beds are available, we have to allow new infections, not panic when they happen.

There are even people at the moment that wait for the day when the number of deaths that is still announced on daily basis will got to ZERO. People, that can’t happen! Every day people will die and some will die of pneumonia.

The Corona Files: Covid is staying … get used to it!

No Vaccine for Covid-19?

People in Ireland are a friendly bunch, and dealing with others on a first name basis is absolutely normal (apart from in very formal settings). So, since Covid-19 has moved in and isn’t leaving soon, let’s call it by its first name. Hi Covid! Welcome to Ireland!

How does reading that feel in your gut? For many, this might feel VERY uncomfortable. Imagine welcoming British doctor and serial killer of at least 218 people, Harold Shipmann (www.biography.com/crime-figure/harold-shipman), with a “Welcome to Ireland, Harold!”. It just doesn’t feel right!

But during the week, I listened to my daily schedule of virology podcasts and one of the doctors said something really interesting. He said: “Many of us think that the flu is harmless, but this is completely wrong. The flu (also known as “influenza” virus) is a dangerous and often deadly disease.” He then continued to explain that the flu spreads quite fast, it kills people (often through pneumonia) if they are in a high-risk-groups (i.e. have underlying illnesses or are of advanced age) and it can “get us” at any time between October and March.

If some aliens landed on Earth and you told them about the flu, they probably would be VERY VERY afraid. But for us Earthlings, the flu is NORMALITY. We got used to it and it is nothing we think overly about. You probably had it at some stage and you might even know people that died from it. (Although it was probably said that they died of pneumonia or something else that was caused by the flu. It is unlikely that someone said that that person died of the flu.)

But despite that deadly disease (flu!) among us, we do not change our behaviour much during the flu season. MOST of us have never been vaccinated against the flu, at least not if you are young-ish or not in a healthcare profession or risk group. If it hits us we take it on the chin, are out of action for a few days and then go back to work when it is over.

And there are other dangerous and life threatening things that we willingly accept in our lives. Car accidents, plane crashes, smoking, drinking, overeating, “under exercising” and many other things kill people on a daily basis and we all have directly or indirectly been affected or at least know someone who has directly or indirectly been affected. But we still don’t freak out too much over it.

I have no intention to compare the number of deaths and claim that Covid is harmless, it isn’t! But what struck me when I heard the virologist talk about the “normality” of the influenza in our life was the fact that the presence of Covid might just become a new normality! :-O

A yearly or even permanent risk that has to be minimised by certain actions (like using seat belts when in a car), but something we will get used to (because will HAVE to get used to)! And in a few years, it might just be normal to talk about Covid as we talk about the flu today.

Someone born in Ireland today, has an average life expectancy of 81.5 years. This is an average, no promise and certainly no guarantee and many do not reach that age. But in 1960, the average life expectancy in Ireland was just 69.80 years. And in 1946 it was below 60 and in 1900 even below 50. Imagine, on average you only lived until 50 if you were born in 1900! That is a very young death from our point of view today. (Source: www.esr.ie/article/view/730/157)

So from 1900-2020 we removed so many risks and dangers and we improved the health system so much that it resulted in an increase of the life expectancy of more than 30 years. That is a big achievement, but nothing that was guaranteed. If we are honest, we expected that it would continue to go up and up and we NEVER considered that there could be a setback.

Covid might have changed this and will probably put a dent in the graph!

However, it is still completely normal that we will have to die one day and that fact will not change – at least for another long while. What Covid has done is that it has added another risk factor to our lives and my prediction is that we will get used to it

So the real question today is not “How much longer will it take until I can go back to work again?” The real question is “What do we have to do to continue life with this new normality?”.

This might be a worrying thought initially, but think for a moment about all the risks that we are prepared to accept in our lives already and ask yourself WHY we are prepared to accept these risks. And then think about how you might be able to accept this new and added risk.

So, Covid is here to stay! Now we have to find a way to get used to it! …and at the same time again try to reduce the risk of a new danger while still continuing our lives.

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And just to pre-empt that question: No, we are not doing that at the moment! Currently the politicians and doctors in Ireland are trying to REMOVE the risk and therefore have decided to lock us in for another while. They are talking about lifting the restrictions “when it is safe”. But this is not the solution for the future if you accept that it might never be safe. It is like saying “We will let you use your car again when it is safe.” or “We will let you smoke again when it is safe.”

And a final warning: Do not hang all your hope on the discovery of a vaccine! There is still no 100% effective vaccine for Influenza A or Influenza B. Pharmaceutical companies guess every year which strand might break out and combine bits of a number of strands in a vaccine to hopefully cover the one that will hit us that year.
Also, there has never been a vaccine for SARS-1 or for MERS and Covid, which is SARS-2, will most likely mutate so much as well year after year, that there might never be a 100% effective vaccine. Oh, and remember, there is also NO “vaccine” against most cancer types despite them being around for so many years and despite their devastating effect on the life expectancy graph! So it is definitely possible that there will never be a 100% effective vaccine.

And that is another reason why we have to think about this new normality in a way where there is no going back to the old normality.

 
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