Corona-virus threatens Mary Lou McDonald and the Irish Pharma Sector

” This Virus is a demon and we cannot allow this demon to Hide ” President Xi of China

I’ve been waiting. Waiting for the Irish media to take a proper run at the corona-virus. As we don’t currently have a government, it’s pointless lashing politicians for the moment, although it would be no harm if a few reporters started asking Mary Lou about COVID-19 while she’s running around Dail Eireann looking for dance partners.

Alas, It seems government formation is going to require a few recipe adjustments before it bakes in the oven for 2 – 5 years. But whatever mishmash of a coalition is cobbled together, it is certain the corona-virus should be near the top of it’s immediate priorities. In the interim Journalists need to pick up the slack.

The Irish response to the corona-virus or COVID-19 as the scientists have taken to labelling it, has been wholly inadequate. Both in terms of reporting on the media side and action on the State side. I have been following the World Health Organisation press conferences and it may surprise some to know that one of the doctors leading the WHO response is an Irishman. Well it surprised me anyway.

Dr Michael J Ryan is the Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies programme. He is front and centre of the WHO response to this crisis and at least one of his tasks is communicating that response to the worlds media. These daily WHO press conferences have most members of the world press in the room or dialling in by conference call. I have yet to hear a question with an Irish accent.

Now I would imagine that given Dr Ryan’s nationality and a bit of journalistic creativity it wouldn’t be difficult for one of the 4 or 5 major news outlets in this country to be dialled in on that conference or more specifically dialled into Dr. Ryan directly. To make their voices heard and get an inside track of the story.  To ask some fucking questions and not just publish the daily death tolls coming out of China as click-bait articles.

For the first 4 weeks, the Irish media have drip fed us bogus infection rates and death numbers. The numbers as we know now ( and they knew) were completely inaccurate. A pandemic of this nature is akin to the outbreak of a war in at least one aspect. Truth is lying somewhere on a trolley hooked up to a faulty drip and it’s a patient in need of  some public interest journalism. It needs a newspaper or TV station willing to commit resources to the story for the next two months.

In the last week the Chinese Communist Party have massively adjusted upwards their death and infection rate figures. This has more to do with the metrics they are using to define who and who does not have the disease than any sudden spike in daily infections.  The metrics are merely trying to catch up with the outbreak. The metrics have changed because the Chinese keep getting caught in lies.

Dr. Li Wenliang is an emerging global hero but it is hugely outrageous he had to die to become one. Wenliang and his colleagues tried to bring the Corona-virus to world attention in December and was initially arrested for his efforts. On release, he went back to work, feverishly trying to treat the afflicted, contracted the virus himself and died. His death sparked an outrage in China that has forced the authorities to start acting more transparently. If Wenliang’s fears on the corona-virus had been acted upon; the crisis we are now faced with would be many times less.

What you may not know and what I like to call Fun fact number 1 is that the Chinese authorities have now revealed that close to 2,000 health professionals in Wuhan are infected with the corona-virus. Even taken at face value ( which is charitable), it indicates that Wuhan and the Hubei province is headed towards a health infrastructure meltdown in the next few weeks if the health professional infections do not start to drop.

The WHO have adapted a stance that they’re happy with the Chinese interaction to date – in terms of reporting and actions taken. I am somewhat perplexed by this as it seems very clear the Chinese authorities knew the problem was at least very significant in mid- December. Curiously very little of the questioning in the daily briefings is direct and hard-hitting. I mean the Associated Press, Associated Foreign Press, New York Times etc are all present. Dr Ryan is batting away questions like he’s Roger Federer during the first round of Wimbledon.

Indeed more than one major news agency on Friday were more engaged in asking questions about the Olympics in Tokyo than forensic examination of the information that China is providing to the WHO and how accurate it is. In fact, no-one seems particularly exercised asking about what information the WHO team on the ground are presenting back to the leadership. Certainly the United States press does not have it’s heaviest journalistic hitters engaged on the subject as of yet – at least as far as I can tell.

Ryan has indicated that the WHO have a team in place since mid-January in Wuhan. What is clear now though, is that the virus was out of control long before January 11th – the date of the first reported death. What we do know is that the Chinese have refused direct personnel aid from the United States. At least three times.

Which leads us to Fun Fact number 2.

90% of generic drugs produced in the world are either directly manufactured in China or important constituent raw materials in their production are imported from China. China has a global choke-hold on the core chemicals or precursors that make our medicines. So yes, the country that is in the grips of a corona-virus pandemic that has no vaccine is also the country responsible for nearly all of the worlds generic medicine production. Far, far from ideal.

Rosemary Gibson details all of this in her excellent book China Rx. If you’re taking a deep-dive on all things corona-virus or pandemic related, this publication is a must read. She goes through in painstaking detail how the global generic drug situation has been allowed to evolve over the last 25 years. The United States no longer has the resources to make Penicillin and other last resort anti-biotics. Any generics they do make rely on the import of the chemical compounds from China. If the world stopped receiving imports of medicines from China – within 60 days our pharmacy shelves would be empty.

This in turn is putting huge economic and political strain on the Chinese. Disturbing evidence is emerging that social distancing measures may be relaxing due to the pressure of getting factories and other small businesses back up and running.  Remember, the Chinese are attempting to directly quarantine an area the size of France with a population of between 60- 80 million people. This is having a massive economic impact on them and by extension on us. Partial lockdown’s are in place in a dozen other Chinese cities – affecting upwards of 250 million Chinese citizens. It brings up very important future questions for countries like the US and by extension Ireland.

When this pandemic comes to a conclusion one of the first orders of business for the US government will be that generic medicine production will be treated as National Security asset by the United States. They will not allow themselves to be left with this vulnerability ever again. This is certain to have knock on effects for Ireland in the medium term. As we all know the US Pharmaceutical presence in Ireland is huge. How much of that presence will be encouraged home is a question our next government needs to deal with and possibly discourage. Bottom line the relationship between Big Pharma and the US government is going to change as a result of the corona-virus pandemic.

Getting back to the present and the question we are most finally left with is this.

Is this massive Chinese quarantine project working?

Firstly let me point out, that the majority of the information I have consumed on this subject comes from the corona-virus podcast WARROOM: Pandemic. Each and every virologist and subject matter expert on WARROOM: Pandemic suggest the answer to the above question is a resounding No.

We are at a stage, 14-21 days in, that if isolation was working the numbers of infected would be starting to peak and drop off. There is no evidence this is the case and that the isolation project has contained the virus.


Which brings us to Fun Fact number 3.

The Chinese New year.

China is a nation of migrant workers and it is estimated that between 150 million – 200 million migrant workers were on the move for this holiday in January. It is one of the few times in the year these over-worked people get the chance to return home. China knew it had a massive problem in Wuhan but did not cancel the holiday celebrations in time. 5 million people of an estimated 60 million population had left the Wuhan/ Hubei region before outbound travel restrictions were put in place around the 23rd of January.  By most experts estimates this has been the single biggest mistake the Chinese government have made in the corona-virus story to date. The virus got out of the Hubei province in a huge way. There is absolutely no way President Xi and the CCP have this virus quarantined to the Hubei province in an overwhelming manner.

The source of the outbreak remains a mystery, so for instance the ” rumor-mill” of the virus having emanated from a Bio-medical facility (BSL-4)  in Wuhan still hasn’t been officially discounted 5 weeks into the crisis. The WHO or US military bio experts are still not in a position to put that rumour to bed which of course makes me wonder. Or another issue that 14 of the first 40 reported cases of the virus had no direct contact with the Wet market in Wuhan, that many publications claim as the source of the virus outbreak.

On January 11, 2020 – The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced the first death caused by the coronavirus. A 61-year-old man, exposed to the virus at the seafood market, died on January 9 after respiratory failure caused by severe pneumonia. We can be certain now that there were thousands of cases known in China on this date. I would speculate that perhaps this wasn’t the first death and if I was in full conspiracy theory mode suggest it was a death that provided a propaganda link to a narrative the Chinese were trying to sell from Day 1 to the international media, namely that the outbreak source was in the Wet Market. And that some weird human/bat strain emerged from this place.

All I would say , is that if you think the Chinese wouldn’t engage in propaganda on such a serious and deadly subject then close your eyes for a moment. Now think of a video related to the corona-virus that you’ve seen. I am willing to bet most will conjure the image of the viral video of the Chinese hospital being built in 10 days. Propaganda of a country in control and able to execute a response in lightening speed. Except the response was anything but lightening in the initial stages.

China is a country behind an information firewall – anything we see they want us to see. Anything that creeps out unsanctioned involves arrests and disappearances of the people involved. So we will probably never know the exact truth of the origin.

Meantime imagine for a second if we get even 100 cases in Ireland of this vaccine-less virus. Our public health infrastructure will collapse a lot faster than the Chinese one.  We can’t even put people attending an ER on a bed. How on earth would we start to quarantine thousands of people?

Have the State engaged the Army, Garda Siochana and emergency services with even a list of basic, rudimentary quarantine sites?

Because I am pretty sure they can’t be hospitals. Especially ones that don’t have beds for the run of the mill sick.

I don’t know the answers but it would be nice if someone would start asking the questions and stop accepting gobbledygook answers .


WARROOM: Pandemic podcast click here 

Rosemary Gibson and China Rx  click here


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