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The Corona Files: An explainer

After the Coronavirus reached Italy and created havoc there, it was only a matter of time when it would arrive in Ireland and so it happened and – through visitors in Italy – the virus made it to our little island.

And like in most European countries the confusion was huge at first, the demands on politicians were massive and finally the Taoiseach had not other option but to also declare the closure of schools and universities and cultural institutions.

This is a completely unprecedented situation that nobody in this whole world has any experience with, so there is no real right or wrong yet and I think our politicians have done the best they could.

You might be very worried about this virus, so let me explain what one of the most eminent SARS experts in Germany, Virologist Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten, says about the Corona Virus /Covid-19, which has a lot of similarities to the SARS virus.

He explains that it is expected that nearly every one will get infected at some stage over the next few months. For kids, there seems to be an indication that they are only carriers and will not experience severe symptoms. Then there is the age 12-65 where the symptoms will be a general weakness, a persistent cough and – in most cases – a raised temperature. But after about 2 weeks all is over and they will recover. And then there is the groups of elderly people from 65 years of age. In this group it is expected that unfortunately up to 20 or 25% of infected people will die. The virus itself doesn’t kill, but the body (especially the circulatory system) will be so challenged after around 5 days with symptoms, that it will not be able to continue to work in weaker people or people with an pre-existing heart problem and a few other issues. They and younger people with other underlying health problems will be the people that need to be looked after in a hospital.

After the first phase, the Containment Phase, didn’t succeed and the virus could not be contained. We entered the Delay phase. In this phase the focus is on delaying the spread of the virus (not stopping it!). There is no way to stop it, but if all people that could get infected would get infected around the same time, the health system would collapse. (I saw a calculation that described that the UK, for example, would need over 1 million hospital bed if the spread couldn’t be delayed, but they only have 140,000 beds.) So currently they are ONLY trying to delay the infection.

The experts are expecting that the infections will continue until September or even longer. :-O And that nearly all of us will get infected at some time over this time. So all the current limitations, including school, university closures and closures of all cultural institutions will unlikely end on 29 March.

Most flu viruses don’t like the warmer weather, but it seems the Corona virus can handle it, so there is a high probability that the virus will not “disappear” over the summer and then come back in autumn/winter, but that it will stay with us.

In that case – and if it ha immunisation as a result – it would be positive for the healthy among us to get it early on, but the problem is that for a period of 2 weeks BEFORE you show any symptoms, you can already infect people. So this is the dangerous period during which you should stay away from all weak and elderly people.

No vaccines will be available until probably next year, so we can’t hope for that to sort the situation.

In general, try to stay upbeat and try not to panic. Prepare yourself mentally that this virus will be with us for quite some time (And we thought Brexit was an endless story!?) and that the current or some other social distancing rules will either stay in place or will come back again in a few weeks. Oh and stay healthy as much as possible so that you will get over it fast when the virus hits you.


And here is some advise on how to behave in the next few weeks or months:

1. An infected person would have to cough, sneeze or – and we all do that – spit while talking. The droplets fly through the air and would have to land on your face to infect you directly. If you keep a distance from the people you talk to, there is a good chance that the droplets fall on the ground and will be harmless for you.

2. If an infected person coughs into their hands and then touches a doorknob/tap/fridge door/steering wheel/shopping cart, they will leave the droplets there. The droplets are relatively sticky and can survive for up to 3 days and some surfaces and only approximately 3 hours on others. If you then touch that surface AND transfer the droplets to your eyes, nose or mouth you can also get infected. So, don’t touch your face and you are most likely fine.

3. An infected person doesn’t show symptoms for up to 14 days, but can pass on the virus already. So we should be vigilant with regards to all people, not just obviously ill people. You will not get sick just by being in the same room with someone who is infected.

Adhere to this protocol:

◦ Don’t touch your face

◦ Wash hands surgeon style for at least 30 seconds after potential exposure to surfaces that others may have touched. You may think you know how to wash your hands, but you should STILL watch a video and get it right.

◦ Social distancing will decrease the risk of getting infected. Cancel unnecessary meetings, but confidently go to necessary engagements and then use the protocol above.

◦ Carry a large handkerchief at all times, even when you are not sick. Cough into it or at least cough into your elbow. Do not cough without covering your mouth.

◦ Wipe your phone down (at same time as washing hands)

◦ Wipe fridge door, taps, light switches, remote controls, keyboards etc

◦ Use a paper towel to open the door on the way out of a public toilet.

◦ Washing your hands with soap and water is sufficient. Anti-bacterial soap is NOT required. Hand sanitizer is NOT as efficient as soap, but can be used when no soap and water is available. Make sure that the hand sanitizer has 60+% of alcohol in it.

◦ Remember you have an immune system too. Even if the droplets manage to reach you, the virus still has to get past your immune system. So keep that healthy! Look after yourself and don’t run yourself down.

◦ Take care of your emotional self – fear, worry and anxiety wear you down

◦ If you do feel sick, immediately self-isolate, get tested and take directions from your health care provider.

Taoiseach puts himself on ejection seat, but stop talking about it!

There is a time in our lives when we all have to leave. I am not talking about that final leave, that will put us 6ft under, but I am talking about leaving a job, leaving a hobby, leaving a group of friends, leaving a football/chess/car racing/knitting/etc club. It is usually best if YOU can choose when you depart and also it is best to keep it a bit as a surprise just because it should ideally be on your terms not on other people’s terms.

The current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, wasn’t clever enough to ensure that he was in charge of his future, but stupidly he indicated to the nation that he might not lead his party into the next election. Maybe he wanted to get some positive gain from this statement, but it certainly has back fired as his party and in fact the political landscape in Ireland seems to be mesmerised by the question WHEN will he step down. It totally distract from the real issues and it must interfere with the ability of the current government to do the best job they are capable of.

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the current Taoiseach, but at the same time I do think that day to day politics is a lot more relevant than the discussion about who will be the next leader of Fine Gael and the “peacocking” of his possible successors is really putting me off all of them. Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney or Frances Fitzgerald? Neither of them has been elected, so I don’t really care about them.

At the moment, there is one guy in charge. He is telling us about how Ireland will deal with a Brexit….and seems to talk more nonsense than sense. He is going to bring a silly bowl of shamrock to Donald Trump, a move that certainly doesn’t find support everywhere because of the person the American president is. And he didn’t impress with his handling of the recent whistleblower affair in the police force.

So no “Well done! Great job!”, but because I don’t think the discussion about him stepping down (when, how, where?) will bring Ireland forward in a positive way, I would prefer if the speculation about the date of stepping down and about the successor would not take up newspaper headline after newspaper headline.

As long as the man is in his current job, don’t distract him all the time! If he doesn’t give his job full attention, it might turn out even worse than now.

 

Are Irish Travellers are an ethnic minority? What about Cork people?

On Wednesday the Taoiseach declared the Irish Travellers as a ethnic minority in Ireland. This was done after many years of refusal to do so by government after government and it begs the question why 01 March 2017 was seen as the perfect day for it because the discussion about it is going on for a long time.

And with that long delay and the repeated refusal, the next question has to be about the WHY travellers were recognised as an ethnic minority. There are just about 29,000 people in Ireland that declared themselves as travellers in the 2011 census. Some still have a nomadic lifestyle but many are now “settled travellers” (an interesting Oxymoron). They speak their own language or rather a dialect that is called De Gammon (by Irish Travellers) or Cant (by non-travellers) or Shelta (by linguists), a language that sees words that derive from Irish mixed with English.

The definition of an ethnic group requires some or all of the following features:
a shared history; a common cultural tradition; a common geographical origin; descent from common ancestors; a common language; a common religion; a distinct group within a larger community.

Looking at these 7 points, I’d say six out of seven are probably applicable (the seventh is the religion which is not different to the majority of people in Ireland). But is that enough to make a group an ethnic group and – if the group is small – to make it an ethnic minority?

Compare that to Cork people! The majority of people that live in Cork have a shared history because they have common ancestors. They definitely have a common geographical origin and have some common cultural tradition that are different from people in the rest of Ireland. They certainly have a common language, boy! …and they are a distinct group within a larger community. So the same six seem to apply to people from Cork as to Travellers. Should we now declare “People from Cork” as an ethnic minority?

Or compare it to full-blooded programmers! They have a shared (recent) history and have common cultural traditions. (Don’t laugh, programmers would call it “cultural”. ;-) ) They fall short on the common ancestors, but share as much a geographical origin as Travellers. Programmers definitely have a common language and to a degree they have a common religion (not in the traditional sense of “religion” though). They are a distinct group within a larger community and you could even say that they have largely a common dress code and appearance. So should Programmers get recognised as an ethnic minority?

Sure, I am over exaggerating and not that serious (at least with the Programmers). But shouldn’t we question any categorisation in our society? I know, this article is not political correct. The right approach would have been to celebrate the Traveller’s new categorisation and say nothing else. But are we maybe much TOO politically correct?

Please note, that I don’t have any answers, but I do have a lot of questions!

Does the Irish Government know what “Brexit” means? – Irish 10 year plan in response to Brexit

On Wednesday (15 Feb) Newstalk reported that the Taoiseach will announce a 10 year plan in response to Brexit here. I expected to read about a plan that would talk about supporting the exploration of new markets for Irish companies selling currently into the UK; a plan for getting tourists from elsewhere to visit Ireland to make up for the short fall of tourists from the UK and a plan to deepen our relationships with the other EU countries (#WhoNeedsTheUKAnyway).

But I certainly didn’t expect to read about a plan that will “focus on areas such as investments in roads, public transport, and energy.” Something MAJOR went wrong here! One of us, either Enda Kenny or myself, has NO clue what “Brexit” means?!

My understanding is that “Brexit” means that once it happens, one of 27 countries, Britain, which is made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, will leave the EU. That country won’t pay any more money into the EU, but will also not get any money from the EU anymore. All contracts that currently regulate relationships with other countries in the EU will stop being valid for the exiting country and everything has to be arranged new with this country. Ireland does a lot of business with Britain, so there will be some impact, but the ONLY area Brexit will impact Ireland is in matters that have to do with borders and markets as fas as we currently know.

How does have focus on “investments in roads, public transport (!!!!!) and energy” have anything to do with a Brexit? Enda Kenny is quoted saying “That new Plan will show how we will invest in roads, in public transport, in energy, in water, in schools, in higher education and in hospitals and health facilities. It will include detailed, funded plans to complete the national road network, including links between Dublin and Derry and Donegal, and to accelerate delivery of critical public transport infrastructure.

“It will include substantial investment in the ports and airports that Ireland will need as a successful, global trading nation. And it will support the achievement of our international climate change obligations and our national objectives for sustainable development and environmental protection.”

I accept that streets to Derry (in Northern Ireland) could be affected by a Brexit, but how does Brexit affect public transport? Or education? Or hospitals? Or national objectives (the clue is in the word, Mr Kenny!!) for sustainable development and environmental protection?

Has Endy Kenny lost it completely? NOTHING of that plan will prepare Ireland better for a Brexit than doing nothing. Now having such a plan is a VERY good idea for a country and it is surprising that this was not considered anyway, but needed a Brexit as a trigger. Is it a matter of “…we only look after our own country if another country leaves the EU”?

Very very odd!

Enda Kenny – the Mayo eejit?

One of a number of problems in Irish Politics is the Parish Pump politics that is done. That means that politicians care much more for there people “at home” in their constituency than for the country. As a consequence TDs (members of the National Parliament) waste time with helping Paddy to get his passport faster because he forgot to apply in time or with going to funerals of every Tom, Dick and Harry, just so that their families will vote for that politician again.

It is bad and it could relatively easily get changed, but politicians don’t like change, so we have to live with it. But you would expect that the head of the country, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny has the interest of the country in mind as the highest priority.

We had in the context of the mess around building a new government and with the recent Apple ruling and a few other stories, quite significant events that needed a strong and decisive Taoiseach and someone who informs the people about his decisions. Did Enda Kenny speak to the nation at that time? I am not 100% sure, but I don’t think so.

This week Mayo (where he is from) is playing in a Football game. Yes, it is the final, but so what. And what does Enda Kenny do? He speaks to the nation to support his home county in a cringeworthy video, What an eejit!

Here it is: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDmpmOy5qAk

Can we please swap him for a LEADER of the country?

 

 
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