France added 23,000 new cases yesterday (April 03 2020) to it’s official COVID-19 statistics. It points to the value of journalists, opposition and ordinary people consistently asking questions.
France’s first cases started to appear on or around February 15th 2020. For close to 7 weeks they were only reporting coronavirus patients that were going through the French health care system. So people in nursing homes and other types of residential care facilities were magically ignored because they were treated in their existing care facilities.
Consistent questioning of the numbers and anecdotal evidence of this behaviour finally forced the state to recognised this anomaly. So eventually, then yesterday, French authorities fed an additional 15,000 cases into their official statistics. See Below – Courtesy of World Meters
French Statistics here
I am the first to point the finger at China and the gross under reporting of it’s coronavirus numbers to the world. But we must also recognise that they are not the only country to have done so. We must be wary of ever going down this road in Ireland. I have no reason to believe that the statistics in Ireland are anything other than 100% accurate but we must always probe Government agencies for details. We must dig down deep into the data.
I believe this is an opportunity for newly elected Sinn Fein politicians. As government buildings are basically in lockdown, the country is being run via the daily coronavirus press briefings. This is a combination of the chief medical officer, Head of the HSE and various Irish ministers and other scientific figures in the country.
Each day the COVID-19 numbers are presented before the media. Then questions are invited from the assembled press. I would suggest that a couple of senior Sinn Fein officials should start attending these daily briefings. To start asking more probing questions.
The first order of business for most of the assembled press is to publish the new case and death toll numbers which receive an avalanche of clicks on-line. It is not a set up geared towards lengthy and probing questioning of the small and largely unelected group of people managing the crisis in Ireland.
As an aside I find it stunning we still have no official government, so in this bizarre environment Sinn Fein should brave the risk and begin attending these daily press conferences and start hammering out questions. It’s basically the only form of government we have at the moment. And the only opportunity to present an opposition.
A positive of the first three weeks of Coronavirus Ireland has been the volume of data the various Irish Government agencies have been producing and publishing courtesy of a robust attitude to contact tracing. Curiously many of the big media outlets are not excavating the underlying data by way of forensic analysis. For instance, I was shocked to find that 42% of all cluster outbreaks in Ireland have occurred in a Hospital or a Nursing Home.
This indicates that the people we are supposed to be protecting the most – the elderly and people with underlying conditions – have been exposed to risk the most, in the early days of the pandemic outbreak in Ireland. According to the statistics provided by the HSE’s own Health Protection Surveillance Centre – there have been 70 cluster outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes in Ireland.
There is much head scratching around the world as to why Northern Italy’s death rate has been so high. At surface level, It had a health system that many regarded as very good. What analysts are examining at the moment is the unwitting role health workers had in the spread of the virus. They were not sufficiently protected in the first 10-14 days of the outbreak. There was not a specific set of robust protocols for them to follow. Irish health workers need a very specific set of protections and protocols. And I don’t just mean personal protective clothing and masks.
In Ireland we have one very stunning statistic. 1,084 Health workers are infected with the coronavirus. That amounts to 27% of all cases. This figure is rising as opposed to falling. Our health system cannot afford to lose this many health workers from the front line for another two weeks. There is not much point in ” Flattening the curve ” if the capacity of our health system is also getting flattened.
There is clear evidence that Dublin is Ireland’s Wuhan. Over 55% of all reported coronavirus cases are located in the city. In fact if you consider the hinterland counties of the city the figure is closer to 65%. Different rules need to be applied there to control the spread. The majority of these protocols should be around staffing levels and massively increasing the number of medical volunteers that have offered their services. Preferably people that are single or who have not yet started a family.
Why? – Because there is an argument that medical staff working in hospitals should be quarantined away from their own family and non hospital contacts for the duration of this crisis over the next 3 months. How many people have those 1084 infected health workers infected through no fault of their own?. They are a very vulnerable grouping as they are working in close contact environments exposed to both infected and uninfected people.
The government should be flexible enough to provide a range of options and protocols for these people including accommodation and make special arrangements for the families of these key workers. As much as we need to cocoon our elderly we need to cocoon our health workers even more.
We should in essence be targeting specific types of medical resources at the coronavirus. Our strongest from an age demographic and our most flexible from a social demographic.
It may sound like a draconian approach and maybe it’s not the right one but the more people asking questions the better the chances we have of beating this thing together with casualty rate closer to Germany than Italy.
Ask the Italians. This virus demolishes the softly, softly approach.
The 9 page HPSC report ” Epidemiology of COVID-19 in Ireland ” can be found here