Locking Everything Down





A Cabinet Subcommittee meeting yesterday on Covid-19 with politicians and officials including Tanaiste Simon Coveney (left)

This morning.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney spoke to Dr Gavin Jennings on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the coronavirus.

He spoke about the Department of Foreign Affairs advising Irish people not to travel to anywhere in Italy while conceding that Ireland cannot “control” people travelling from Italy to Ireland.

They later discussed the immediate figure of public gatherings in Ireland with Mr Coveney indicating that fresh advice on this is imminent.

From the interview…

Jennings: “You announced packages yesterday of nearly €2.5billion to help people to stay at home. How soon will it be before more people are asked to stay at home?”

Coveney: “Well as the Taoiseach outlined yesterday, and I think [Health Minister] Simon Harris has been doing it as well, I mean there are, there are different phases here in terms of how you respond to something like this. We are currently in the initial, what’s called, ‘containment phase’.

“In other words, anybody who tests positive, we want to establish who they are, where they’ve come from and the likely source of infection. And so the vast majority of the 24 people who’ve tested positive in Ireland so far have come form Northern Italy and they’ve brought it home with them.

“And of course then our public health team have followed all of the contacts that those people have had to try to make sure that we follow any others who may have been exposed to that virus.

“That’s been the focus so far which is really about containment and minimising the number of people who are exposed to the virus. But I think it is inevitable that we will move on to what’s called the ‘delay phase’ which is essentially trying to stop the spread of a virus in a population that has no immunity and recognising the reality that we effectively have no vaccine and no treatment for this virus right now.

“And therefore the only way that we have of effectively limiting the numbers of people who contract the virus is through old public communication and of course providing comprehensive and good healthcare to people who have symptoms.”

Jennings: “At what point will that happen? At what point will we move on to a ‘delay or mitigating phase’ and that more people are asked to stay away from each other?”

Coveney: “Well, I mean, in some ways, that’s already starting. I mean we’ve, we cancelled, or postponed at least, a large rugby fixture, we’re also cancelling, essentially, St Patrick’s Day parades across the country. And if our public health team make further recommendations in relation to public gatherings, we will follow that advice and I understand that Tony Holohan, who is the chief medical officer and his team will be meeting today at the National Public Health Emergency Team and they will be looking to, to give clearer and more detailed guidelines around public gatherings. So that we can give people and organisations more direct advice on that, sooner rather than later.”

Jennings: “It looks that there are kind of two choices. Lock everything down before thousands become infected or lock everything down after thousands become infected, like what’s happened in Italy. Why are we waiting to make more moves here?”

Coveney: “Well, we are, I think trying to provide responses that are proportionate. So you know if you shut a country down without good reason and evidence to back that up, then I think you can cause significant damage to people’s quality of life also. And so what we’re trying to do is follow the public health advice that is appropriate, given the level of threat at any given time.

“And, you know, I’m a politician, a policymaker, we need to listen to experts in terms of the recommendations and the advice that they give. And I think that we need to follow that. This response needs to be health-driven and that is what we’re doing, rather than politicians going off on solo runs and doing things that aren’t recommended.

“We’re very much working with our public health team, with the HSE and with the chief medical officer. Meetings are happening literally every day. Advice and discussions are happening at a European level and at a national level and as you saw yesterday, the Government will respond comprehensively on the back of public health advice.”

Jennings: “You were on television last night [Claire Byrne Live], taking questions for some time and beside you was a doctor and an expert academic, talking about increasing social distancing. They were talking about measures like closing schools, universities, pubs, restaurants and more.

“Now you got briefings yesterday from health experts, privately, can you just explain to us what they’re thinking is as to what point more social distancing, more restrictions will be introduced. We’ve what 24 cases in this State, 36 cases on the island of Ireland. At what point will more measures be introduced?”

Coveney: “I mean I think the direct answer to that question is when it will be effective to do that. And I think it’s important to say that the Government isn’t ruling out any course of action.

“If this virus takes hold and starts to spread in clusters in different parts of the country, we will need to respond very firmly to that. To try to delay the spread of the virus as best we can. I mean if you look at, and I’m learning about this like everybody else is, but from what I’m told, if you look at how a virus like this spreads in a population, the challenge for us is to slow down the spread of that infection, to give health authorities the time and the space to be able to respond to that comprehensively and to give populations also the time to actually understand how they can protect themselves and their families.

“So instead of this being a dramatic peak where very large numbers of people are impacted by the virus in a very short period of time, we’re trying to actually spread out that curve over a period of time, so that we can respond in the appropriate way to protect, most importantly, vulnerable citizens from this because don’t forget the vast majority of people who will be impacted by this virus will get through it.

“They will have relatively mild impacts on their health but maybe up to 20 per cent of people who contract the virus will have a significant health impact and of course a small percentage, for a small percentage, it could be fatal.

“And if you have very large numbers in the population impacted, well then even small percentages can mean thousands of people losing their lives. So this is something we are monitoring on a daily basis and you know as the Taoiseach said yesterday, really the challenge for the country here, potentially, if the spread of this virus happens on a worst-case scenario basis, this is a challenge that is totally unprecedented…”

Jennings: “Yes.”

Coveney: “…in Irish modern history.”

Jennings: “If the challenge is that big though why not move earlier? If the Taoiseach says almost 60% of people could become infected, what grounds are there not to move to delay with mitigating measures now?”

Coveney: “Well… I think that what we’re trying to do here is to respond to a crisis as it develops. And if you use all your ammunition on day one and then effectively…”

Jennings: “Do you not want to move before it develops?”

Coveney: “Yes, we are and we are doing that. That’s why we have already cancelled very big events, that’s why we have taken unprecedented action in relation to travel advice. That’s why we are preparing now, in our health service, to add significant bed numbers to decant people from hospital who don’t need to be there. So that we create space to try to deal with a problem that could become much, much worse, very, very quickly. So a lot is happening. And of course the advice will be upgraded on a daily basis.

“You know the special Cabinet committee on Covid-19 is meeting again on Friday, again on Monday after that. The national public health emergency team is meeting again today. And of course will update the Government, in relation to advise.

“So you may find that the Government moves to do a lot more very quickly but I think we need to do that on the basis of good, public health advice rather than on the back of political pressure.”

Jennings: “But there may be people this morning, listening, minister, who may decide to move before Government advice, before pubic health advice. People who are organising events, people who are organising matches, people who are organising parties, public gatherings who will think ‘will I wait for the advice from Government’ or is the responsible thing for me to do now, to keep people away from each other where possible?”

Coveney: “Well I think, as the Taoiseach said yesterday, I think we should all think carefully about unnecessary public gatherings and I think you will get advice shortly, if not even this evening, but certainly in the next few days on public gatherings and numbers and proximity and so on.

“But we want to make sure that advice is accurate and based on as sound, on evidence-based as we can provide it. So what I would say to people is if you are organising seminars, if you’re bringing people together for whatever reason, whether it’s a concert, whether it’s a sporting fixture, whatever it is, keep a close eye on the HSE website and we will be proving updated information on public gatherings shortly.”

Listen back in full here.



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74 thoughts on “Locking Everything Down

  1. Lily Pop

    What’s the point of a government if they WON’T secure our borders?

    (Didn’t we just fire those idiots?)

  2. scottser

    last week it was the royals
    this week it’s the coronavirus
    if kate or wills catches it, broadsheet will go into meltdown

  3. Clampers Outside!

    But, but, but… according to comments on here yesterday this is all too late, too slow, and we’re all going to die.

    I mean cancelling the parade with only a week before it was to go-ahead… they may as well have let it go-ahead. It’s incompetent!

    Again, this all too slow and we’re all going to die!

    1. scottser

      anybody notice that there is sod all traffic on the roads these mornings?
      it’s very nice.
      ye should all stay at home more often…

  4. Liam

    “Unfortunately we can’t bring the Late Late to Limerick this week as it is unsafe”
    “Because of the Coronavirus?”
    “The what now?”

  5. 01101101 01100011

    just a small nerd question here:

    is Simon Coveney the Tánaiste or the Acting Tánaiste?

    1. Cian

      He is still Tánaiste.

      ARTICLE 28
      11 1° If the Taoiseach at any time resigns from office the other members of the Government shall be deemed also to have resigned from office, but the Taoiseach and the other members of the Government shall continue to carry on their duties until their successors shall have been appointed.

      1. 01101101 01100011

        I’m not sure that article covers it tho, does it? has there been a resignation?

        In this post-election limbo as no Govt. has been instantiated as yet surely they’re all just acting ministers, no? straight technical question.

        1. Cian

          It does. He resigned on the 22 Feb.

          The Dáil met for the first time after the election and he lost the support of the Dáil. Neither Varadkar, Mary Lou McDonald, Micheál Martin or Eamon Ryan secured sufficient votes required to be elected Taoiseach. So he went to the Aras and resigned.

          The Constitution doesn’t say anything about changing their title to “acting”.

          1. 01101101 01100011

            aha gotcha, thanks Cian

            so is it that his (Varadker’s) resignation wasn’t accepted or technically isn’t acted upon until a new Government is instantiated?

          2. Cian

            No, His resignation was accepted. But he and the other members of the Government shall continue to carry on their duties until their successors shall have been appointed.

            It’s like if you hand in your notice at work. You have resigned, but are expected to work out your notice. The difference is that the notice period for a government isn’t a set number of days but until a new government is formed.

  6. Spaghetti Hoop

    Very irresponsible – the LLS should be completely shut down to protect us all, not just for Limerick.

    1. Clampers Outside

      Live audiences are being cancelled for TV shows in the US.
      We should do the same. No issue with it going ahead without an audience, in fairness.

      I’d say same for weekend GAA/FAI fixtures which could be got on radio/tv for the most part.

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        I actually meant that jokingly Clamps because the LLS is so awful.
        But good idea suspending TV audiences and playing fixtures without crowds. I think showing flexibility and resourcefulness all round is a good thing.

  7. MountainTalk

    in an nutshell, “SEE WHAT HAPPENS” is our approach. No pro-active measures. We’re just sitting ducks w/ this lot. Remember HSE/MEDICAL is treatment. Social Policy is prevention. To spell it out. A doctor can treat lung disease. But it’s the government that bans smoking in every bar, restaurant, bus, train. Or planes. Coming straight from wuhan Italy.

      1. MountainTalk

        in this case – over-reaction is the safer bet. Unless it’s cool a few olds been picked off

  8. Clampers Outside

    If all the hysterical comments were acted on, which some appear to think they should be, then the whole country should be locked down, and no one should leave their homes…. this is why I post “we’re all going to die” after hysterical comments.

    1. class wario

      yeah, people need to realise that only things like trans people existing will cause the end of the world, not infectious potential deadly diseases

    2. MountainTalk

      There’s no hystery. Or panic. Actually no knows what that means. There is general alarm doe. That the government saw this slow moving train and took no preventative steps. Hi-viz jackets + hand-sanitiser response aside

      1. Clampers Outside

        How fast does a govt act?

        How fast, and on what issue, should they have acted?

        Claiming slow, and other specifying what is slow is meaningless.
        Please elaborate.

        1. MountainTalk

          OK – first, there’s a difference as you know btwn prevention and reaction. Prevention – Monitoring the global spread of the virus. Restricting flights from Hotspots. Screening at ports of entry. Quarantines/diagnostics setup. Protective wear issued to frontline workers ie. transport. Naming outbreak hotspots.
          Reaction – letting a doctor fly back. Unscreened. Works all night in a Hospital. Then react.

    3. some old queen

      The level of complacency by our government is shocking. I would prefer an over reaction to an under reaction because it really is so serious. That doesn’t mean everyone should panic but when you have a situation where people are arriving from hot spots who are not even being advised to self isolate, the stark incompetence of these clowns is evident.

      1. Clampers Outside

        Explain how this is an underreaction?

        Also, the response above to another comment I gave asking re how fast is “fast”, if you could add to that.

      2. Clampers Outside

        People are not being advised to self-isolate. It’s everywhere that I’m seeing people advised to self-isolate. So much so that there is unprecedented illness benefit restrictions lifted so that people may do so.
        Where are you not seeing people nit being advised? There are signage in airports and ports for this.

        This is from Dublin airport, 5 days ago….

        1. some old queen

          That does not advise people to self isolate? It also says that there was no need to screen at this point. 5 days ago (and longer) was EXACTLY the time to be screening people from hot spots.

          1. Clampers Outside

            They are following protocols from those with the knowledge and authority on such matters… “Irish health officials note that this type of airport screening is not recommended by either the World Health Organization or by European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.”

          2. ReproBertie

            It does in the big yellow bit at the bottom. It says;
            “I have Symptoms
            1. Stay away from other people”

            It says it twice.

            Screening at airports would not catch people who were still incubating the virus and asymptomatic.

          3. some old queen

            @ Clamps- I expect the Italian authorities were following the same guidelines and look what happened there.

            @ Bertie- Screening anywhere will cut down the number of infections. Why would asymptomatic not show up? The test does not take symptoms into account- how could it?

            The real problem is that the testing resources are limited and they had three friggen months to ramp that up. They say it is not at full capacity as yet but that is because they are limiting the number of tests done.

          4. Cian

            @SOQ less of your scaremongering and fake facts please.
            “they had three friggen months to ramp that up. ”

            – China only alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) of several flu-like cases in Wuhan on 31st December.
            – The virus was only uniquely identified as a new virus on 7th Jan.
            – The first confirmed death in China was 11 Jan
            – WHO declares a global emergency on 31st Jan less than six weeks ago

          5. some old queen

            @Cian and how much have they ramped up the screening facilities in that time? It’s been obvious for two and a half months that something very serious was happening.

            Not knowing exactly what it was is no excuse for not setting more labs up.

          6. ReproBertie

            “Exit and entry screening may look reassuring, but experience with other diseases shows it’s exceedingly rare for screeners to detect infected passengers. Just last week, eight passengers who later tested positive for COVID-19 arrived in Shanghai from Italy and passed the airport screeners unnoticed, for example. And even if screeners do find the occasional case, it has almost no impact on the course of an outbreak.”


          7. some old queen

            By screening I mean taking swabs, not just temperature. To take swabs means that the authorities must also take the contact details of every one tested- in case it returns positive.

            The lesson from HIV is that screening works- and in fairness to the Italians, while late out to start. they have been screening more than anyone else in Europe. They also have one of the best health services in that part of Italy too of course.

            Even then it is just a snapshot in time but, the idea that we should all sit back and do nothing is ridiculous.

          8. ReproBertie

            Who is saying to do nothing?

            What we’re not doing is rushing to take measures that don’t work just to make people feel better.

            Do we have the test kits to test everyone arriving into the country? For how long?

        2. Cian

          No. The official line is that you should only self-isolate if you are displaying symptoms.
          If you are not showing symptoms – carry on as normal.

          1. some old queen

            I know of one case where an idiot went to a Italian hot spot for a weekend break. His employer sent him home for two weeks- that is the way to do it.

  9. broadbag

    Coveney (or was it Leo) was spouting this ‘you don’t want to fire all your ammo in the first shot’ nonsense last night too, surely when faced with the stark evidence of what is happening elsewhere that’s exactly what you do, throw every measure you have available at it at the earliest possible moment, probably already too late as it is, but this approach seems to be wait until it gets much worse and slowly and gradually react once the horse has bolted? Is it just a case that they aren’t physically capable of rolling out these measures and need to ramp up to them or is the policy simply to fiddle while Ireland burns/coughs?

  10. Dr.Fart

    “eh well, basically, eh, yes, well, eh, essentially, um em” just say what we can all see is happening; you don’t know what to do, and none of you have the initiative to take any action. you’re too afraid to take real action because of economy, which to politicians like you, is the most important thing above anything else. profit before people. clear to see.

    1. Clampers Outside

      He did admit that, when he admitted taking the advice of experts.
      Have you a point at all?

          1. Dr.Fart

            you don’t deserve a reposte. you don’t listen to other people, all comments may as well be black boxes on your screen. im obviously not going to engage with such a blinkered fool.

        1. A Person

          Fart is a shinner and will no engage with anyone who disagrees with him, unless of course to abuse the other poster.

    2. MountainTalk

      Agreeded. also plus most systems in this country take guidance. Or are a direct carbon copy of what the British do. In this case (amoungst other things) suppressing hotspot information. In real terms, my friends father just recently travelled to Cork. By Train. Senior citizen. To see his sick friend. Learning that a nurse from the outbreak hospital is treating him. He’s currently in a self-imposed quarantine.

      1. Dr.Fart

        Mountain talk: absolutely ignore clampers. you don’t have to prove yourself to him like he’s some kind of judge we have to obey. a quick scroll down this whole thread and you can see he’s commented millions of times. he’s lost his mind with this topic. i don’t know his angle coz by now i already know its a waste of time to read his blitherings. hope your friends father is ok!

        1. Clampers Outside

          The guy painted a conspiracy that information in hotshots is being suppressed.
          I pointed that this is ridiculous.

          This in no way, accept in your self righteous mind means any ill towards anyone… in fact, it is you who is twisted to insinuate such.
          Simply pathetic.

  11. Slightly Bemused

    Good news, though! Just doing my standard weekly shopping and I can confirm my local supermarkets all have adequate supplies of bread and toilet paper.

    I was amused as I wanted to get surface wipes, as my current pack is running low. Not a standard surface wipe to be found – even the floor wipes were gone.

    There was a lady at one of the shops who had two full carts of various items. I know her and we chatted. She has a large family and does a monthly shopping every mid-month. She said the looks and comments she got from others were hilarious. As she put it, why would you voluntarily stock up on Brussels Sprouts?

    1. some old queen

      I was in a Lidl yesterday and some of the fridges were empty- never seen that before. I doubt if there is any panic buying going on in my area as yet but it is probable that the mainland EU supply chains are being impacted.

      1. Slightly Bemused

        Only times I see their fridges empty here is about once a year they let the stock on the shelves run down just before the major stock take for the end of their financial year. Sensible move, but not at this time of year.

        You could be right, especially if their drivers like that one on RTE News the other day (for a haulage company) who said if he is asked to go to Italy, he would resign.:)

  12. GiggidyGoo

    Coveney – ‘That’s why we are preparing now, in our health service, to add significant bed numbers to decant people from hospital who don’t need to be there….’

    It takes a virus outbreak for him to realize that the health service shouldn’t’ have bed blockers?
    Oh yeah… ‘We’re looking at / we’re preparing’ mode has been entered once again.

    Decant me…….x

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