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The Corona Files: Do we really need a Lockdown?

The numbers are still growing like crazy and the situation keeps being very very difficult:

There are now nearly 600,000 confirmed infections and 27,358 people have died as a result of a Covid-19 infection. More than 900 deaths happened in Italy alone and the peak has not yet been reached. The USA and Italy have well surpassed the infection numbers of China, but the apparent total halt of new infections in China raises a lot of doubts over the accuracy of the reporting from there.

And last night (Fri 27 March 2020), Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the Lockdown for Ireland (www.rte.ie/news/2020/0327/1126904-taoiseach-announces-restrictions/). A Lockdown that many expected, but nobody wants!

Until Easter Sunday (12 April 2020) we are now not allowed to leave our homes unless leaving the home is for one of a few specifically defined reasons.

These specific reasons are: for work (if the work is essential and cannot be done from home); to buy food and household goods;  to go to a doctor or buy medical/health products; to care for others (elderly & vulnerable) or for animals AND also for brief physical exercise, but only within 2km of your home. And there should be no travel outside of 2km from your own home unless for any of the above reasons.

ALL Private gatherings with people outside of your own home are prohibited and cocooning of everybody over 70 years of age will be introduced.

This is drastic stuff and you have to wonder if it is justified or necessary. Other countries in Europe already have implemented comparable restrictions and in Italy, for example, the fines are up to EUR 3,000 if you break the rules. In Germany the fines (at least theoretically) go even up to EUR 25,000. :-O

I have to admit that when governments force restrictions like that upon their people, I am very VERY skeptical. In “normal” times, I would be outraged, but these are NOT normal times.

So does it make sense to restrict our freedom in such a way? Let’s look at the reasons and let’s search for possibly doubtful claims in the announcement:

Firstly, the idea of Social Distancing and of the partial closing down of our lives was to reduce dramatically the spread of the virus. Because it remains hidden for 5-14 days where the carrier can infect others but doesn’t show any symptoms yet, it is a high risk if virus carriers can keep moving around and continuously infect others. So the cycle has to be broken. It seems that Social Distancing, the closure of schools and work places has had a positive effect, but the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) considered the further increase of infections and deaths and therefore didn’t want to wait any longer with the Lockdown.

This makes some sense: If a Lockdown was considered at all, then now is a better time than in 1 or 2 weeks.

Dr. Tony Holohan, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, explained that it was found that infections were especially increasing in some clusters (he mentioned 10 nursing homes and other residential facilities). This is not overly surprising because people live together in a close space. But it is mentioned as one of the reasons for the Lockdown measures.

This does NOT make much sense: Because NONE of the Lockdown measures will affect or help these clusters. People in nursing homes, residential units or prisons don’t usually go to work or travel far or go to shops. So telling the rest of the population to stay within 2km of their home doesn’t seem to improve their situation.

The “cocooning”, however, makes a LOT of sense. Since it has been found that older age groups and people with health issues are severely endangered by the virus, it is the best idea for them to stay out of harms way and to wait until the virus has disappeared. Will two weeks be enough for that? I have some doubts. So the cocooning (which should have possibly happened even earlier) might have to last longer than 2 weeks, but it definitely makes sense.

We have to ask, who will be really affected by this Lockdown? Because the majority of people that I encountered on my very rare trips outside my home last week (one for food shopping and two for a walk) did very much adhere to Social Distancing. Based on the relatively few people I met and the very light traffic, I also think that the majority of us did already stay inside and away from others.

However, it seems to have been seen as a problem that people did go out for walks and cycles etc over the weekend and this also explains why the measures were announced on a Friday evening and why An Garda Síochána has announced that they have begun a “major nationwide policing operation” to enforce the new rules, which will (only!!) run until 07:00 on Monday morning.

There is not much wrong with reducing the Sunday good-weather trips for three weekends, if it will safe lives. But you could get the feeling that Leo Varadkar and Dr. Tony Holohan could have been more open (or honest) about the real reasons?

Some with some omissions in the provided information, with some claims that might not hold up and with some sense in the whole approach, what is the overall verdict about this Lockdown?

All things considered, I think the Lockdown is a measured and justifiable step to stop the spread of infections, but I really hope that the goal is not anymore to just “flatten the curve” (of new infections), but to eradicate the Coronavirus. I thought this might not be possible, but after thinking it through, I wonder if there is actually a way to eradicate it. After all SARS-1 doesn’t exist anymore! Could we stop travel and shut down life (as we know it) until the new Coronavirus has been eradicated?

By the way, the absolutely outstanding work effort combined with HUGE personal sacrifices of our healthcare workers alone requires us to think further than just looking to “flatten the curve”. And their dedication and trojan effort to fight against this virus is part of the reason why I think a bit of a Lockdown is a small price to pay if we we can help them fight the infections and deaths.

Let’s do this together and stick to the rules as much as possible!


Before the end of this post, I need to appeal to everyone to support the efforts through Social Distancing, but at the same time, not to go crazy over it! It is relevant and it helps, but it can be overdone:

I have seen posts on Facebook where three guys performed some songs together and a range of people had nothing better to do than to complain “loudly” that the three don’t adhere to Social Distancing rules! These three guys live in the same apartment! Seeing three people closer than 2m together doesn’t mean that they are selfish a**holes.

And Leo Varadkar said in his announcement last night that it is allowed to go for
“brief individual physical exercise, within 2km of your own home, which may include children from your own household, AS LONG AS YOU ADHERE TO 2m PHYSICAL DISTANCING”.
This was written down on his manuscript and I really hope that it was an oversight that this is total nonsense: If you go for a walk ONLY with people from your own household, the 2m distancing does NOT make sense. How come nobody realised that?

 

 

Cyclists seeing red & Cyclists vs motorists

The newspaper journalists LOVE to stir sh*t and create confrontation! It sells the paper and that’s what their job depends on, so we fully understand that. ;-) However if you brought the wrong two sides up against each other you could get squashed in the middle, so you have to pick wisely! A good target to pick are cyclists and motorists. There is a natural dislike for each other it seems and also you steer far away from any racial or gender issues and accusations of discrimination.

Last week the Irish Times reported that “More fines issued to cyclists but not to drivers parking in cycle lanes”. I get the link BUT this is just sh*t stirring! The journalist didn’t write about “More fines issued to speeding motorists than to drunk motorists” or something like that.

Cars in cycling lanes is against the law (during the hours a cycling lane is active or if there is a full white line) and there is no justification for parking there. And in the same way, crossing a red traffic light is against the law and there is no justification for doing it, but comparing the number of tickets is nonsensical.

It is interesting though that there were 571 (!) fines given to cyclists who crossed red lights in the Dublin region. Considering that you can hardly ever be at a red light as a pedestrian or in a car WITHOUT seeing a cyclists crossing a red light, this is just a tiny tip of a HUGE iceberg and but it did already amount to a sizeable number of 571.

It is a totally stupid and very dangerous thing to do at best of time! So I hope that the Gardai will continue stopping cars and bikes who cross red lights!

Senior gardai will get honesty lessons!?

Senior gardai will get honesty lessons!?

The gardai in Ireland were part of more scandals in recent years than they should have been. There was the corruption that was revealed by whistleblower Sergeant McCabe, then he was bullied and accused of a lot of things incorrectly. penalty points were deleted by gardai and more recently totally wrong and over-exaggerated number of alcohol tests on Irish roads were published.

The amount of scandals are seriously worrying and something has to be done about it. But it is shocking nevertheless to see that the solution is to give lessons about the nine points of the Garda Ethics Code.

The Garda Ethics Code was launched seven months ago by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and was described as a “as a beacon to guide ethical behaviour in An Garda Síochána for years to come”.

It is clearly an example of “whatever you do is wrong”, because if nothing was done about the problem we would all shake our heads and complain. But when something is done, we also shake our head and complain. …just for different reasons.

My biggest question is if anybody really thinks a “Code of Ethics” will make a difference. A good, honest and upstanding Garda will be exactly that (good, honest and upstanding) before and after the training and why would he need that training?? And a dodgy and dishonest garda will not suddenly out of the blue repent and turn his life around and become honest. So, is that Code of Ethics just a joke? Pretending to do something?

How did this make it into the news? The Office of Government Procurement is looking for a suitable provider who will give classes about the “Garda Code of Ethics” to 1000 gardai. That Code of Ethics is about upholding the laws, acting with honesty and integrity, speaking up and reporting any wrongdoing or corrupt, unethical or unprofessional behaviour of colleagues.

All topics seem to be exactly the traits that you expect as natural and minimum requirements for someone who is a gardai and it is not a good sign that all senior gardai need to be trained on it. It is also not a good sign that only the senior gardai will be trained. Is it expected that they will brief the rest OR are only senior gardai not honest YET OR is there no hope for the rest?

And why did it take seven months from launching this Code of Ethics until teaching the 1000 about it?

Quite odd this whole situation and definitely not what we would have thought our gardai to be.

Trust issues – Is the Irish Police Force dodgy?

The An Garda Siochana, the Irish Police Force, is – like every other police force in the democratic world – the one and only enforcer of right and wrong in the country. They are not the judge if it is REALLY right or wrong, that’s what we have the judiciary (the courts and judges) for, but the police has to enforce the laws.

If you enforce the laws, however, you should also be obliged to stick to the laws. It increases your credibility tremendously and you set an all important example. If the rules don’t apply to the enforcer of the laws, then people behave like the children of parents that don’t stick to the rules they spout out. They become unruly and break the rules.

A small example: It is wrong for the Gardai to be allowed to use/handle mobile phones when driving, as long as all of us are not allowed to use mobile phones. And I think that EVEN if the mobile phone use is exclusively in the pursuit of their job….because we all know that it is NOT only in the pursuit of their job when they use the phone.

This is however a really small example and the Irish Gardai do it better:

1) Over the last few years they claimed that they carried out 1.9mio roadside alcohol test, but the Medical Bureau of Road Safety only knows of 1mio. How can there be a discrepancy of nearly a million? (RTE Report)

2) 14,500 people were prosecuted for road traffic offences and will have their convictions quashed because the gardai screwed up. They were brought to court without getting a fixed charge notice first. Not ok! (How come it took so long to come out?) The people that now get their money back and points removed because they drove 3km/h too fast (I got 3 points for that. Grrr!) are ok in my eyes, but what about people that committed serious traffic offences and who will also go without any penalty now? (RTE Report)

3) The Sergeant Maurice McCabe saga that is also called the Garda Whistleblower Scandal where Maurice McCabe lifted the lid on Garda corruption around the penalty point system and was threatened within the police force and a cover up was attempted is still not completely sorted. 5 years after it started!

4) This week it emerged that there are financial irregularities at the Garda College in Templemore. They had 50 (!) bank accounts for the college and used money for entertainment and presents that should not have been used for that. (RTE Report)

5) And now the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan indicates that this might not be the only falsifications there are.

Can we really trust our Police Force? I am sure (and know) there are many Gardai that can be trusted but if there are soo many problems, there seems to be a huge systemic problem and if you need LUCK to get to deal with a “good” Gardai then that doesn’t instill confidence in the enforcer of right and wrong in our country.

Ammunition find: Seconds matter…after 90 years!?

This afternoon I was in South Great George’s Street and suddenly sirens and blue light everywhere. From the Rathmines direction three garda motorbikes raced down the street in super speed. Behind them a big green truck with blue lights and sirens and the writing “Explosive Ordnance Disposal” (i.e. the Army Bomb Disposal Unit) on it. Great St. George’s Street near George’s Street Arcade is an area with quite a number of pedestrians, but luckily there weren’t too many people around at that time because neither motorbikes nor truck would have been able to stop if someone had crossed the street not hearing/seeing the convoy.

Something SERIOUS must be up, I thought.

A little later I heard in the news that in Strandville Avenue, near North Strand Road, a ammunition dump was found. Grenades, rifle rounds and artillery shells were discovered under the kitchen floor of a house being renovated and it emerged that they were badly corroded and dated back many years, possibly to the War of Independence, that’s 1919-1921!

Not so good to have lots of corroded ammunition next to the DART/train line in a reasonably densely populated area of the city, but let’s consider this:

This ammunition was in that house for approx 90 years!!! But after it is found, the Bomb Disposal Unit (supported by the police) RACES through the city centre as if seconds or minutes matter.

(And let me clarify, the ammunition was found at 11:45 and the scene was cleared at 15:15. I saw the break-neck speed convoy racing by at approx. 14:40. So either it took them nearly 3 hours to get there OR it was not the first time the bomb disposal unit was on site. Either way, a more leisurely and safe speed through the city centre would have been ok.)

www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2011/0817/breaking48.html
or
www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/historical-arms-dump-found-in-dublin-house-516885.html

 
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