Coronavirus Reactions

I was having lunch last week when a colleague from another department here stated that he thought that within two weeks that he thought that within a fortnight Maynooth University would be closed down owing to the threat from Covid-19 (the Coronavirus). I’m not sure whether he meant it seriously. At the time I thought that was extremely improbable but this morning we heard that a school in the Dublin area has been closed for two weeks because one of its students has the virus, and now I’m not so sure…

Incidentally, setting aside possible the rights or wrongs decision to close the Dublin school the attempt by the Health Service Executive to keep its name from the public strikes me as utterly daft. Do they seriously think that none of the hundreds of pupils or parents thereof is going to talk about it? I checked on social media this morning and easily found its name. It won’t give people much confidence in the HSE to see them losing sight of reality.

Another reaction to this worldwide health scare became apparent yesterday as the American Physical Society cancelled at very short notice its meeting in Denver due to take place this week. Thousands of delegates were due to attend, and many of them had already arrived when the cancellation announcement was made.

I’m bound to say that I find all this to be quite an overreaction to the threat from Covid-19, but I am not an epidemiologist and I suppose the medical people must know what they are doing. It seems the primary objective at present is to limit the spread of the disease, which makes sense particularly as there is as yet to vaccine. Whether measures like those mentioned above will actually achieve that I don’t know. One has to balance that consideration against the risk of causing panic by giving the impression that things are out of control.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, as part of my public service responsibility here is the official advert from the Irish Government:

21 Responses to “Coronavirus Reactions”

  1. It's Cold Out Here Says:

    Yes, here in Kuwait all schools have been closed down for 2 weeks so I am teaching classes from home electronically. Not ideal but at least the kids are getting some type of education. Worrisome because we are getting close to AS/A2 Level exams.

  2. Jonathan Thornburg Says:

    The medical people do indeed know what they’re doing (at least in this regard): “social distancing” is in fact a highly effective way of blunting the spread of contagious diseases such as this one. See
    for more information. Quoting from that article: “School closures were shown to reduce morbidity from the Asian Flu by 90% during the 1957-58 outbreak,[18] and up to 50% in controlling influenza in the US, 2004-2008.[19] Similarly, mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures were associated with a 29% to 37% reduction in influenza transmission rates during the 2009 flu epidemic in Mexico.[20]”

    • Dave Carter Says:

      It is horrifying to hear that the UK government is looking at limiting temporarily class size limits in order to keep schools and nurseries open. This is absolutely the last thing you should be doing. Schools and nurseries are hotbeds of infection at the best of times. Ok, the children themselves are likely to recover, but the problem is that they bring the virus home and give it to their parents, or more to the point, grandparents.

      Medical people may know what they are doing, but the UK government are not listening to them. Experts, who needs them?

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    I think that closing things down is not an over-reaction. Social media pics show people dead in the streets in Iran and China and it is quite a virus which causes people to die in public rather than at home. And the evidence is strong that China has been at best exceedingly economical with the truth over its effects there and the measures taken:

    We could be in the early stages of an exponential growth, and social distancing does take down the coefficient in that exponent.

    • telescoper Says:

      I’m surprised you consider that site to be a reliable source of information. These reports are not verified and some are definitely faked.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I’d be glad to be wrong. The link I gave to that site was not about people keeling over but about satellite images correlating with economic activity; are you questioning that?

    • With regard to Iran, here is a quote (unverified) from someone’s comment on another blog:

      n Iran, the religious leaders are refusing to close the religious shrines and encouraging large crowds to go there because the shrines have ‘healing powers’ and the people who go …are you ready for this?…lick the walls of the shrines with their tongues, or kiss them, or wipe their hands on them and then wipe their hands on their faces. And then all the guys greet each other by kissing each other.

      This was mentioned in contrast to Saudia Arabia, also a deeply religious country (but, of course, with a different type of Islam), even stopping pilgrimages to Mecca. Like a lightning rod on a church, it’s a tacit admission that they don’t really believe all that they claim to. 😐

      • Dave Carter Says:

        Islam of course is not the only religion whose centres have been associated with the spread of this disease.

      • “Islam of course is not the only religion whose centres have been associated with the spread of this disease.”

        But have others actively encouraged it?

      • Dave Carter Says:

        Well apart from your unverified blog, which quite frankly sounds like bollocks, the issue is that people in religious centres don’t want to close these centres because they believe that attendance at those religious centres is in itself something which will protect people. Its part of the core of their belief. And I think, indeed I know that people another religions apart from Islam hold such beliefs. You can see the consequences in Shincheonji in South Korea, where the leader of a particular sect is now facing a murder charge. Maybe you don’t regard keeping a centre open when all reason tells you that it will put people in danger as “active encouragement”.

        Churches and other religious centres are full of elderly people, most vulnerable to coronavirus. So the question as to whether to close them is a real one.

      • My question whether others have encouraged it was not rhetorical.

        The interesting thing is that Saudi Arabia, one of the most religious (and most repressive) countries in the world is following science, not religion, in limiting travel to Mecca.

      • It's Cold Out Here Says:

        Saudi Arabia’s fear of revolution is quite real and is the driving force for all of their cultural actions to ‘open up’ the country and is the driving force behind all major decisions. Living next door to them makes you acutely aware of internal politics.

      • Could be, but they still have a long way to go.

  4. Dave Carter Says:

    China, although it is still the country with the majority of cases, does seem to be getting on top of this, and reducing new infections and deaths. So it is sensible to look at the measures they have taken. I will certainly be avoiding physical contact with people where possible, and avoiding enclosed spaces with a lot of people in them. My wife and I are both in high risk groups, as was mentioned earlier below the article on flu vaccine.

  5. […] Anyway, back to Covid-19. Mortality so far seems largely to be confined to the elderly, but other than that its parameters are understood far less well and, above all, there is no vaccine (and won’t be for some time). Although people under the age of 65 have a relatively low risk of dying from coronavirus they can still act as vectors that can come into contact with and expose higher risk groups. In principle, therefore, reducing the rate of transmission through social contact is eminently sensible, although I remain unconvinced about some of the decisions that have been taken recently. […]

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