Archive for NPHET

Covid-19: Out of Control

Posted in Covid-19, Maynooth, Politics with tags , , on October 16, 2020 by telescoper

The latest Covid-19 figures for Ireland make grim reading. Yesterday the number of new cases was the highest it has ever been since the start of the pandemic in March (though part of this is due to increased testing). The 7-day average is climbing relentlessly. It’s not the incidence rate itself which is the cause of alarm, it’s the fact that it is on an exponential trajectory again (with a doubling time only just over a week):

Yesterday evening the National Public Health Emergency Team advised that the entire country should immediately move to Level 5 for a period of six weeks.

Will the Government agree to this escalation? NPHET advised such a move less than a fortnight ago, but to no avail. Since then the situation has deteriorated more quickly than anyone predicted. It’s easy to be wise after the event but I think that decision was a very bad mistake. Even if they agree now, precious time will have been lost. There are now so many cases that contact tracing is effectively impossible, and hospitals are already feeling the strain. Unless something drastic is done now, by next month the health system will be overloaded. In my opinion it will be a scandal if there is no immediate move to Level 5.

Failing to move to Level 5 earlier this month was the second big mistake this Government has made. The first was the decision taken in June to wind down restrictions starting from 20th July, earlier than the original ‘Roadmap’ indicated. That was a mistake because it sent out a message that the pandemic was almost over. The change in behaviour among certain sectors of the public was immediate. Complacency set in, and the second wave started. It seems to me that the Roadmap was working so there was no need to change it.

Most European countries are experiencing a `second wave’ of Covid-19, in many cases worse than the first, so I’m not saying that adhering to the original Roadmap would have prevented a similar phenomenon in Ireland. I am saying that it could have been slowed considerably. By loosening the constraints too quickly and then not applying them again quickly enough, in both cases bowing to pressure from vested interests, the Government has made a difficult situation far worse than it need have been. They’ve let the situation get out of control and now nobody knows how it is going to end.

To Level Five?

Posted in Covid-19, Maynooth, Politics with tags , , on October 4, 2020 by telescoper

When I saw that 613 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Ireland on Saturday (3rd October) it seemed obvious that the situation in Ireland was getting out of control:

Note that on this graph the new cases have been growing in a roughly linear fashion for at least a month. Since the y-axis is logarithmic this means the growth of the pandemic is roughly exponential. The  7-day moving average up to and including Saturday was 448, with no sign of an end to the upward trend.

After a meeting yesterday, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) reviewed the following statistical developments:

In the light of these it decided to recommend an immediate jump to the highest level of restrictions, Level 5, for the entire country:

Level Five isn’t quite the same as what happened in March, largely because Schools and Colleges are intended to remain open, but it means the same widespread shutdown of the private sector. This escalation is supposed to last at least 4 weeks.

This is of course a recommendation. The imposition of these measures is up to the Government, which has to balance public health measures against economic damage. Presumably will make a decision sometime this week. Will they have the guts to stand up against the hospitality industry?

The problem is that the Government announcing restrictions and people actually abiding by them are not the same thing at all. It only takes a few people to flout the rules for the pandemic to take hold once more, and while many people are behaving sensibly, there is ample evidence of people not doing so.

What this means for us at Maynooth University remains to be seen.


UPDATE: The Government this afternoon rejected the advice of NPHET and instead moved the country to Level 3. I hope they know what they’re doing.