Covid-19 in Ireland: the Pandemic’s Progress

I noticed last night when I was updated the numbers and graphs on my Covid-19 page that it is now 90 days since I started counting on 28th February. By way of an update here are the latest graphs (as of last night):

Mindful of a study that suggests that the general public do not understand log plots – I have had some angry messages on Twitter accusing me of deliberately misleading people by using a log axis – here are the daily updates on linear plots, first the record of new cases:

And second the recorded new deaths:

The latter appears rather noisy because of low numbers.

You may notice that these plots look a little different from those presented elsewhere (e.g. here). That is because I have treated the various retrospective corrections that have been made in a different way from others, generally by adjusting the cumulative totals but not the daily figure. For a full explanation of what I’ve done see the notes here. I also haven’t smoothed the data at all. Other representations tend to use a 7-day moving average to get rid of weekly artifacts of reporting, especially the “weekend effect” by which there appear to be fewer deaths on Saturday and Sunday.

If you don’t like log plots then you really won’t like this one, which is a plot of daily cases against the cumulative number on log-log axes:

I like this plot because I think the message is clear: it would give a straight line if the cases were growing exponentially, which was the case initially. You can see that both cases and deaths are well past this stage. In Ireland it seems the Covid-19 pandemic is under reasonably good control. According to the experts the value of the reproductive number R in Ireland is in the range 0.4 to 0.5, and it seems community transmission of the disease has almost stopped.

I haven’t left Maynooth since February so I’ve been here all through the lockdown. The overwhelming majority of people I’ve seen have been observing the restrictions. I can just think of just one occasion that was an exception, on the way into the local supermarket, when someone failed to observe the 2m social distancing when he pushed past me while I was washing my hands with the gel provided. When told by an assistant that he had to wait in line and wash his hands before coming in he refused and was then told to leave, which he eventually did after unleashing some foul language. He was obviously drunk, but probably a twat even when sober. Maynooth is a small and rather quiet place (especially when there are no students around, like now) and there may be worse issues elsewhere, but it does seem that Irish folk are behaving very sensibly.

For the record, as of last night there were 24,481 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and 1,639 people have died. That means that the number of deaths per million of population is approximately 332. That’s a lot fewer per capita than the UK (officially 553, but probably more like 900) a lot larger than, say, Denmark (which is of a similar size) which is on 98 Covid-19 deaths per million population or Norway which is on 44. The reason for the large number despite the stricter lockdown than the United Kingdom, seems to have been the number of deaths in care homes.

On this basis I’d summarise the situation by saying that Ireland hasn’t done all that well when you look at it in the cold light of day, but it could have been a lot worse. Credit is due to the medical experts for their leadership.

Another thing worth mentioning is that according to the experts the fraction of the population that has been infected with Covid-19 is probably around one per cent and is very unlikely to exceed five percent. That means that if the infection begins to spread again then it will do so with very little resistance and the exponential phase we saw in March will recur.

So what next?

Ireland is currently in Phase 1 of a the Roadmap, a programme of gradual and justifiably reduction of the restrictions imposed to halt the spead of Covid-19. Phase 2 is supposed to begin on June 8th. However, next Monday (1st June) is a bank holiday and we have very good weather at the moment – it’s about 27 °C outside as I write this. That, together with the good news from the Covid-19 data may well convince some people to forget about the restrictions and start having barbecues, go to the beach, etc. There must be some concern that this may trigger a second wave, which will at best cause delays on the Roadmap and may require a second total shutdown.

There is a thoroughly reprehensible opinion piece in the Irish Times today by Stephen Collins that on the one hand deliberately encourages mass disobedience if the government “doesn’t move to ease the lockdown measures”. Bu the government has moved to ease the lockdown measures. Quite rightly, though, the movement is slow and cautious. People need to be patient and continue listening to the experts, not people like Stephen Collins.

2 Responses to “Covid-19 in Ireland: the Pandemic’s Progress”

  1. Phillip Helbig Says:

    Today, I came across Piers Corbyn (yes, he has a famous brother), as he was described as an astrophysicist. It looks like he has an MSc in astrophysics but I don’t think that he has actually worked in astrophysics. Seems to hit many of the crackpot/conspiracy buttons and, though with a left-wing past, seems to attract right-wing nuts these days as well.

    Shouldn’t the scientific community react like it did, especially in the US, after the launch of Sputnik? How ignorant of science does one have to be to believe that 5G technology has something to do with the corona pandemic?

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