“How Can You Possibly Talk About Another Lockdown?”

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From top: Chair of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, Independent TD Michael McNamara; Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly

This evening.

At the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, chair of the committee Independent TD Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly about his earlier repeated claims that Ireland is at a “tipping point” and that we could be looking at another national lockdown.

Mr McNamara said there was no reasoning for Ireland to endure another lockdown and later told the minister:

“I really would caution about talk of another lockdown because there is a risk of unleashing a whirlwind. That’s my personal view. I really am not convinced that you will bring the country with you on that.”

They had this exchange:

Michael McNamara: “At that time [when the strategy was to flatten the curve] when restrictions were introduced, numbers were rising from 170 in hospitals to 440. From 50 in ICU to 80. Four months ago, on the 29th of April, there were 1,185 cases in hospital in Ireland, of which 120 were in critical care units. Three times today you told us that we were looking at a complete lockdown and that we were at tipping point. We’ve been hearing about a lot of tipping points, we’ve heard about tipping points now since June.

“We were also told today, by the HSE, that there were 22 patients admitted to hospital with ICU and six, sorry 22 admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and six in ICU. Now, I accept that for those 22 patients and their family and, in particular, the six in ICU and their families, that’s it an incredibly worrying and stressful time. But what I don’t understand, minister, is how you can possibly talk about a national lockdown, given those figures. And given that our health system coped with 1,185 four months ago.

“So I want to know: what is the strategy here? What are we hoping to achieve, if not that our health system is not overrun, because [Acting Chief Medical Officer] Dr [Ronan] Glynn earlier this week, I note accepted that we cannot eliminate the virus and that seems to be the general. I accept that there are those who are calling for it to be eliminated but he said that he doesn’t think we can eliminate it here. There’s a growing acceptance that you can’t eliminate it and if you do, what do you do then? You open up and you go through the same cycle. You’re talking about lockdowns and you’ve said, a couple of times, that they work.

“Argentina has been in a lockdown for six months, figures are spiralling, Earlier this week we had the WHO on RTE News saying that lockdowns don’t work. It was [WHO’s regional director for Europe] Hans Kluge who is the European Director of the WHO. So where are we going? What is the strategy?”

Stephen Donnelly: “Thank you, chair. So, first of all, you’re absolutely right, I have mentioned ‘a tipping point’ several times. But it’s not me making that up. I’m saying it because that is NPHET’s position. And I think it’s natural, chair, that we all become fatigued with this…”

McNamara: “No, I’m not…”

Donnelly: “People have been through an awful lot…”

McNamara: “How can you…”

Donnelly: “And the reason, chair, that I am emphasising it and re-emphasising it is because we need to be on our guard. In terms of your question on do lockdowns work? We know they work. Because we did one here and it worked. They did them across Europe and they worked. If the purpose is to flatten the curve, we locked the country down, the curve was flattened and that is the experience of most of the countries we’ve looked at…”

McNamara: “We have no idea how many people are unable to bear…You talked about causing unnecessary anxiety by using the word ‘trampoline’ and I very much accept your explanation. But talking about another lockdown in circumstances where we have, and again, I repeat, six people in ICU. And I regret each and every one of them desperately. I lost a very close relative of my own earlier this year and I know no matter what age somebody is at, you know, you don’t want to lose somebody close to you. Of course you don’t.

“But we talk about national priorities. We have six people in ICU. Twenty-two in hospital with Covid-19. At the height of this, we had over 1,100 people in hospital and 120 in ICU. And you’re talking about a lockdown again. Have you any idea of the effect that that’s having. Forget about the economy for a moment, but we can’t forget about it for too long because something has to fund our healthcare system. They don’t fund themselves in any country in the world. Have you any idea the effect that’s having on mental health, on people’s psyche, on people’s spirit in what’s happening in the country now? How can you possibly talk about a lockdown?

“Given the figures, it flies in the face of reason. And we all have eyes, we all have a capacity to reason. We all live in a post-Enlightment world.”

Donnelly: “Thank you, chair. Of course, I do understand the implications which is why I keep saying it. It’s why we brought in the measures last week. It’s because we must suppress the virus in our community, a huge national priority has been getting the schools open, for many of the reasons you say. And that’s now happening…because the transmission has been reduced. But chair, I think your question is fair, in that you’re saying ‘look the number of cases is going up and we know it’s going up very quickly’. So, for example, the key measure that the public health experts use is the number of cases over the last two weeks per 100,000…”

McNamara: “Sorry, the number of detected cases, we’ve no idea really how many, what’s happening outside of detection levels. Is that a fair…”

Donnelly: “We do. There is a study done estimating that the total number is about 40,000 to 50,000 versus the 27,000/28,000, we’ve…”

McNamara: “There are other studies that are being prepared that may or may, anyway…”

Donnelly: “The ones that the experts talk to me about are that one. We’ve detected probably a bit over half of the total cases. But chair this figure that they use. We were at three per 100,000 a while ago. Two weeks ago we were at 18 per 100,000 and today we’re 30 per 100,000. So let’s be very clear. This virus is rising again quickly in our community. Now I think you’ve very fairly asked, well how is that linked to hospitalisations. Because the cases are high but the hospitalisations, thank god, are low.

“Go back and look at the profile of what happened the first time. And what you’ll find is that this point in the pattern, as the cases were in and around where they are now and rising rapidly, hospitalisations were also very low. So the unambiguous message and advice from public health, chair, is that death will follow high numbers of cases. So what we don’t want to do is wait…for the hospital system to be overrun. We don’t want to wait for fatalities to go up and up and up before we act. We have to act first and that’s what we’re doing.”

McNamara: “But, minister, that line, that deaths will follow an increase in detected cases, it hasn’t happened across north America. It hasn’t happened, thankfully to date at least, across Europe.”

Donnelly: “Chair the situation in north America, with the greatest of respect, is not one we need to be looking at to learn lessons from…”

McNamara: “I’m not saying…that Donald Trump is doing a good job and please don’t mischaracterise me, I’m not…what I’m saying is that the increase in detected cases has not been accompanied…and it’s a trend that’s going on for some time in north America and the continent. It hasn’t been accompanied by an increase in hospitalisations and deaths. Thankfully, that’s all I’m saying.”

Later

McNamara: “Minister, I just join with you in asking people to behave responsibly to take personal responsibility for their actions to adhere to the measures that have been outlined but speaking personally, I really would caution about talk of another lockdown because there is a risk of unleashing a whirlwind. That’s my personal view. I really am not convinced that you will bring the country with you on that…that’s not a committee view, that’s a personal view.”

Earlier: K Clubbed

21 thoughts on ““How Can You Possibly Talk About Another Lockdown?”

  1. Micko

    I like Michael McNamara. He has a good head on his shoulders.

    I particuarly liked back in June when he said this during a special sitting of the Oireachtas committee about the events industry

    “I am perplexed by the fact that it is acceptable to have 150 people in an aircraft for three hours yet 150 people in the Abbey Theatre is a threat to life. That is nonsense. ” – Chairman Michael McNamara.

    Total nonsense alright

    1. SOQ

      Donnelly has said on a number of occasions that cases = increase in hospitalisations and increase in ICU admittance but that is not happening here and that has not happened in parts of Europe which are way ahead of us.

      It is high time NPHET were given the boot because they are clearly not fit for purpose. If they were then they would know that elsewhere right now- cases ≠ people getting sick.

  2. Zaccone

    Great to see a politician actually questioning the government’s actions, for the first time in months.

    6 people in ICU in the country and Donnelly is talking about the need to lockdown again… The increase in cancer deaths this year due to corona lockdowns is going to far outstrip corona deaths at this rate.

    1. Micko

      I made that point to someone. That lots more people will die from the lockdown thanks Covid.

      And they said “ but Mick, they are Covid deaths as well..”

      Bloody cult.

    2. Sham Bob

      I think it’s totally fair enough to ask what the plan is – the cycle of lockdown and release is unsustainable.

      But with the lockdown-sceptical there always seems to be a bang of 9-11 truther, with ‘do you know anyone who had the virus’ as the building 7 opener.

      There’s also the likes of Jim Corr who’ve been on the bandwagon from the start, and people screaming ‘Wake up sheeple’ as if a youtube video with doomy music is more valid than all the other information out there.

  3. Symptomagicsogography

    I’d like to know the numbers of patients who had or have covid that are getting medical assistance ongoing outside of the hospital setting?. It’s not gone in 2 weeks as is widely and falsely claimed. Those are the numbers going forward that could strain the primary care settings beyond breaking point, which will then overflow to hospitals. People can’t get back to normal, back to work, back to paying taxes etc, and that will bite somewhere along the line.

    1. SOQ

      I’d like to know the numbers of patients who had or have covid that are getting medical assistance ongoing outside of the hospital setting?

      If they test positive or even assumed positive then they are included in the figures.

      It’s not gone in 2 weeks as is widely and falsely claimed.

      In the vast majority of cases the body clears it within two weeks, most of whom don”t even know they are infected- as is the case with most viruses.

      Those are the numbers going forward that could strain the primary care settings beyond breaking point, which will then overflow to hospitals.

      It never happened last time around, even in countries like Sweden which had no lock down, so why assume it will happen in the future?

      People can’t get back to normal, back to work, back to paying taxes etc, and that will bite somewhere along he line.

      And the reason for that is instilled propagandised fear- nothing more.

      1. Symptomagicsogography

        All’s well so, nothing to see here, just a whole load of much a do about nothing. Great. We’ll just say another mass so Ted.

  4. f_lawless

    Donnelly: “In terms of your question on do lockdowns work? We know they work. Because we did one here and it worked. They did them across Europe and they worked. If the purpose is to flatten the curve, we locked the country down, the curve was flattened and that is the experience of most of the countries we’ve looked at…”

    Scary that this is the level of argument the Minister for Health resorts to. There’s no scientific basis to it. It’s akin to asserting “We know the raindance worked because we did the dance and it then rained”.

    The weight of scientific evidence already indicates that lockdowns haven’t worked as intended.
    eg.
    Research paper published in the Lancet which collected data from the top 50 countries impacted by Covid-19, notes that blanket lockdowns were ineffective in reducing deaths and critical cases:

    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(20)30208-X/fulltext#seccesectitle0018

    ” in our analysis, full lockdowns and wide-spread COVID-19 testing were not associated with reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality”

    1. SOQ

      Absolutely frightening that someone from his background is arguing that a bunch of voodoo witch doctors should continue to wreck this country.

    2. Sham Bob

      The report above has the sentence you quote but also in the same report: ‘This suggests that full lockdowns and early border closures may lessen the peak of transmission, and thus prevent health system overcapacity, which would facilitate increased recovery rates.’

      So based on that, what’s the government to do? You’d certainly expect your health minister to be pretty much an expert on Covid by now. Maybe he spent too much time in lockdown thrashng out the deal with FG. Stephen Donnelly, with the boffinish persona on display before he jumped to FF, hasn’t been able to show his workings – falling back on NPHET is just poor.

    3. diddy

      BS….look at the graph since March . we slowed new cases to single digits using a lockdown. but it was just finger in the dyke. the water is seeping in now and we have to get wet

    4. Steph Pinker

      Does anyone know how RIP.ie has been used/abused regarding Covid-19 [alleged] deaths in a so-called statistical manner? The website does not identify cause of death, yet it has been used to – for the want of a better term – identify numbers of people who have died over the past 6 months, and the stats and information being used is unclear, not to mention disingenuous.

      How RIP.ie can allow the personal information of someone’s death to be used without the permission of each and every family associated with each and every death has to be a breach of confidential family information and GDPR? A family member of mine died a month ago (I couldn’t go to the funeral) and it wasn’t from Covid-19, although, had his cancer treatment been continued throughout this *lackofserviceslockdown* he wouldn’t be pushing up the daisies now.

      My question is: are non-Covid-19 related deaths being classed as Covid-19 deaths? And if so, why? Other than bolstering the numbers to save face by NPHET/government, why would any government use death websites and false statistics to save face for destroying an economy – or have I answered my own question?

      1. Steph Pinker

        Addendum: I am aware that RIP.ie provides a valuable and important service in accordance with the sensitive details provided by grieving families; but, how it has been used as a form of statistical premise regarding deaths during a pandemic is beyond my comprehension, particularly considering so many other health factors which have been compromised as a result.

        1. Sham Bob

          It was used as a proxy to estimate excess deaths by a couple of academics during the covid peak. They just looked at the numbers of posts, and compared them to the same period in the last 5 years, and factored in duplicate entries etc. Anyone with the time could have done the same, no input required from RIP.ie. The total did roughly tally with the numbers of reported COVID deaths. Apparently the figures for deaths by cause are released on an annual basis, so then we’ll be able to compare with deaths by different causes from previous years.

    1. Sham Bob

      So people are stupid if they haven’t discovered the 2 scientists that you’re into? You sound like a parody of a condescending hipster.

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