Archive for May 1, 2020

Mayday!

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Maynooth with tags , , on May 1, 2020 by telescoper

Today, 1st May, Beltane (Bealtaine in Irish) is an old Celtic festival that marks the mid-point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. It’s one of the so-called Cross-Quarter Days that lie exactly halfway between the equinoxes and solstices. These ancient festivals have been moved so that they take place earlier in the modern calendar than the astronomical events that represent their origin: the halfway point between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice is actually next week…

Anyway, let me offer a hearty ‘Lá Bealtaine sona daoibh‘!

Today is also the day that the Irish Government decides whether to extend the restrictions arising from the Covid-19 outbreak due to end on May 5th (May 4th is a Bank Holiday). All the signs are that they will and indeed that they should.

We are told that the decision will be based on five measures.

The ‘criteria’ being quoted are:

  1. the progress of the disease;
  2. healthcare capacity & resilience;
  3. testing & contact tracing capacity;
  4. ability to shield & care for at-risk groups;
  5. the risk of secondary morbidity & mortality due to the restrictions themselves.

These aren’t really criteria of course as they don’t set a standard by which performance will be measured. My own amateurish attempts to keep track of the data show that while new cases are falling slowly (the value of the R-number is in the range 0.5-0.8) the rate of deaths remains roughly constant:

If you look at the world data on Covid-19 you will see that it’s a global phenomenon that the timescale for the spread to decrease is much longer than that for the initial increase. That means that loosening control too early will simply precipitate another rapid spread which in turn will require another lengthy lockdown.

The rate of hospital and ICU admissions is not falling significantly either. This may be because over the past weeks an increasing number of infections have occurred in care homes among elderly patients who are much more vulnerable to serious illness than the general population.

I can’t see any evidence from this that would support an argument for starting to end the lockdown anytime soon, and that’s before considering the other points. Testing, for example, is definitely not yet up to speed.

When it first started I told my colleagues that it wouldn’t start to unwind until June and I’m sticking with that.

It’s worrying though that there are signs that some individuals are taking it upon themselves to relax the restrictions. There is definitely more traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) than there was a few weeks ago here in Maynooth. The question arises that if the lockdown is extended will it just become less effective as more people flout it? I think if it is going to be extended the Gardaí will have to get much tougher.

Although I’m very worried by the prospect of things dragging on I do at least get the impression that the Irish Government is doing its best not only to deal with Covid-19 but also to be honest about the situation, to the extent of owning up to its failures. The situation is very different on the other side of the Irish Sea, where the daily UK Government briefings are transparent only in their abject dishonesty.

UPDATE: to nobody’s great surprise the current restrictions will stay in place until 18th May, after which there will be a phased relaxation. For more details see here.