Tag Archives: covid

How dangerous do people think covid actually is??

This morning I found myself in a coffee shop.

Including myself, there were two middle-aged ladies behind the counter, a family two adults and a child in another corner, what can best be described as an ‘aul lad’ in the doorway, and three cyclists-mamils outside

We got talking, as you do, and covid came up, as it does. I asked all six adults ‘what do you think is the fatality rate from C19, in other words of every 1000 people who get it how many people do you think will die?’

The estimates got ranged from the very precise ‘275’, through ‘a few hundred’ to ‘god I dunno but most I’d say’
The perception amongst all of these reasonably randomly selected adults was that this was a incredibly deadly disease the catching of which was near death sentence
Except…it’s not.

UK evidence, and remember it’s the UK that we are supposed to be looking at with horror because there is a hurricane of cases overwhelming their health system and it’s going to come to us, suggests it’s 0.14%

So every 1000 cases even with deadly dangerous delta gives 1.4 deaths. Orders of magnitude less than the coffee House sample suggested

Now this is not scientific and should only be taken as an indication for six people at the side of a coffee house thought. I am not aware of published research on what Irish population perceptions of C19 mortality might actually be….but the concern which we should have is that if there is a perception of this as much more dangerous than it is then political pressure will inevitably move to assuage those fears even if they are not real.

Vaccine Certs – not just for pubs

So the latest cunning plan for our reopening of society is to have a vaccine cert to access “indoor hospitality”

This, lets call it a plan but in reality if you listen to the Minister for CarCrash Interviews and Health, Stephen Donnelly, its more a vague set of aspirations and fudges, is being discussed online and in the media in the sole context of people going for a hape, or even a rake, of pints.

But it is more than that. Its about your local coffee shop. The parents shopping and going to the food court with their teenagers will find themselves having to drop chicken nuggets and taco fries in to the car park to feed the unvaccinated kids. Apparently its also possibly about cinemas and other forms of indoor activity.

So, we have reached the situation where you can work indoors in a crowded setting without a vaccine but cannot access the services of the setting when you come off the clock; you cannot go as a family to the coffee shop but can go abroad; you cannot use a expensive PCR test to show you can go for a coffee or (shock horror a beer) but can to go to Alicante.

How did that prediction pan out, Gerry?

The old joke, and maybe not so funny, is that economic forecasting is there to make astrology seem accurate. To economic forecasting we might consider adding the dire premonitions of ISAG Gerry Killeen, who is a world class expert in malaria (bacterial, insect borne) not covid (viral, aerosol) .

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40255088.html was a prediction on 31-March, a month ago.

“Can we afford to reopen schools where we are right now? I would say no,” Mr Killeen said.“There is no good reason to believe that it won’t put us back into exponential growth. There’s no logical reason; it doesn’t add up.” 

Hmmm.. On that day (per the FT tracker we had 11 cases per 100k ; a month later we have 1 case per 100k , 7 day average. There ws exponential growth, downwards.

Then we had this https://extra.ie/2020/06/08/news/irish-news/dr-gerry-killeen-accelerated-reopeningHe said Ireland is ‘inevitably’ going to be hit with a second Covid-19 wave, which could bring 1,000 deaths a day unless it is stopped.” That was 8 June 2020. “‘I can guarantee that if you follow the plan as New scheduled, even for the five phases, I can guarantee you a second wave, 100% – not 99%, 100%.”

We did get a second wave. But it was 7m later and, thankfully, we didnt get 1000 deaths a day. Despite it being guaranteed.

I get it. When the media come calling to an academic its flattering. There is a temptation to answer regardless. And the more compelling a soundbite, the more they call. Add to that “if it bleeds it leads” and you have a perfect trap. I know. I have been that soldier.

That said, one howlingly wrong prediction is one thing. Happens. Two? Hmm. Time to think about what one’s interactions are with the media.

Covid and National Culture

Branko Milanovic has an interesting and intriguing post on how countries have coped, and failed to cope, with Covid. He notes that there appears to be a “impatience” in the west, broadly defined, which has hampered the slow grind towards a normalcy. He says

The public, and thus I think, the governments were unwilling to take the East Asian approach to the pandemic because of a culture of impatience, of desire to quickly solve all problems, to bear only very limited costs. That delusion however did not work with covid.

Does this hold up?

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Covid Second Wave – this time is different…mostly

So below we see the 7 day moving averages of daily new cases, deaths, hospitalisations and admissions to ICU. These are expressed as a % of the first wave peak.

Clearly this time is very differnet, thankfully. But, at a national level the response to a clearly very different situation is exactly the same.

Why is this time different, so far? A younger population is getting the disease, we are catching much more of it than in Spring so the case level is closer to true incidence, we have a culture of hand and respitatory hygine, travel in and around the county even absent lockdowns and so on is reduced, we know better how to treat the sick etc etc.

But the national policy response is the same – lock down, blame and scold the population, use the police as a threat; we dont have nuance we have a policy of …well I dont know what the policy is to be honest. Do you?

Where are the excess deaths from COVID-19?

So…. where is it happening in Ireland? Europewide excess deaths are monitored and collated by the European Mortality Monitor . They provide z-scores – measures of excess deaths that are standardized to take account of the fact that baseline deaths vary across months and across age groups. See https://www.euromomo.eu/how-it-works/what-is-a-z-score/ for more detail.

So, where are we? The answer is that we are and have been for some considerable time BELOW expected deaths.

Here is the excess death graph for Ireland. The dashed line is the baseline – what we would expect to see over the time period. The red line is the european definition of a substantial increase. The horizontal axis is week. We are, and have been since end of may, BELOW expected deaths. Thats deaths from all causes, not just Covid.

Here is the same graph for those aged 85+ and for those aged 65+

Same story. A massive spike in March-April, tapering off towards the end of May, remaining, even in the most vulnerable, below baseline since. Remember- this means LESS people than would have been expected are dying.

Further clarification re NPHET restrictions

So there has been some confusion on the applications of these. Ronan Glynn gave a video outline of some of the rationale. Minister Donnelly, a less succesful one.

There’s a new, excellent video just released which provides clarity on the recent restrictions. Worth viewing!

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NPHET propose to ban kids birthday parties….

So, with the worrying surge in cases NPHET, they to whom the government have ceded decision making, have decided that kids parties are the problem. Yep. Holymudderagod…. The surge in cases is down to direct provision center/poor paid workers in gross overcrowding and THIS is their latest hamfisted cackhanded (can you be both? I guess) response

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