Tag Archives: Michael McNamara

This afternoon (3.30pm).

Live from the Convention Centre, Dublin

Fresh from a blistering Dáil speech against the latest restrictions, Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara (top), who recently chaired the joint Oireachtas Covid-19 response committee, takes to the stool of doom to answer YOUR questions about the rona, Level 5 and his much-envied barnet.

Previously: Answer A Broadsheet Reader

This afternoon.

Special Covid-19 Committee meeting.

Committee Chairman, Independent TD Michael McNamara questioned Dr John Cuddihy, Director, Health Protection Surveillance Centre, HSE, on how rona deaths are counted.

Michael McNamara: “Dr Cuddihy, if someone shows no symptoms of Covid and they have a heart attack and are brought to hospital and they are tested and it is found they have Covid and they die soon thereafter – but this is someone who has demonstrated no symptoms whatsoever – are they recorded as a Covid death or not? If they have tested positive for Covid but ultimately came to hospital because they had a heart attack or a stroke or fallen off the roof of a building or something like that?”

Dr John Cuddihy
: “We adhere to the World Health Organisation case definition in terms of recording and reporting deaths so in the situation you describe, where someone has a positive Covid test and it is a death in a confirmed Covid case but such a case would be subject to a coroner’s report aswell, and as part of the ongoing validation of data in our surveillance system, we wouldn’t…”

McNamara
: “Obviously a coroner’s report takes a very long time to work its way through the system. So, for now, they are recorded as a Covid death? And maybe they are taken off that list at a later date. is that what you are saying?

Dr Cuddihy: “That’s it exactly.”

Meanwhile…

From top: Dr Johan Giesecke; Michael McNamara TD

This morning/afternoon.

Oireachtas Special Covid-19 Response Committee meeting.

Further to testimony from Dr Johan Giesecke, former chief epidemiologist in Sweden…

….Dr Giesecke was asked what a “soft lockdown” would entail compared to a hard lockdown.

He said:

“There’s no law telling people to stay at home and the police will not pick you up on the street when you shouldn’t be on the street. It is telling people what they should do with distancing, with handwashing, with staying home and so on, self-isolation if you feel sick.

“And you can actually estimate that the number of, in March, mid-March, when the Government introduced these measures, you could calculate that the number of potentially infectious contacts between people in Sweden dropped by 70%, just voluntary, no law.

People did what they were asked to do and they have continued, one thing that’s good with the Swedish strategy is that we haven’t changed anything for the six months whereas other countries are going in and out of lockdowns and restrictions, and which countries you can fly to and which countries you can not fly to.”

Asked how would Covid-19 be allowed to circulate among under-60s yet prevent its transmission to people over-60 and in care homes, Dr Giesecke said:

“Like Professor [Kirsten] Schafer [President of the Irish Society of Clinical Microbiology] said, there is no 100 per cent way to do that but there is a lot you can do to minimise the risk of introduction of the virus in care homes. Over.”

Later…

….Chair of the committee and Independent TD Michael McNamara asked Dr Giesecke if he agreed with the assertion that immunity levels in Sweden are currently no greater than other European states – despite Sweden allowing the virus to circulate more than those states.

Dr Giesecke replied:

“No, I think immunity levels are higher in countries where you had circulation.”

Asked about the efficacy of mask-wearing in all public settings, Dr Giesecke said that he agreed with Dr Tomás Ryan of the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin that social distancing is more important than masks (Dr Ryan also said Ireland should have greater levels of mask wearing, and that mask wearing in all indoor environments should be promoted).

Dr Giesecke then had this exchange with Mr McNamara.

Michael McNamara: “Are masks compulsory in Sweden?”

Dr Giesecke: “No.”

McNamara: “Are they worn generally in schools?”

Dr Giesecke: “No.”

McNamara: “But do you think it would be beneficial if they were worn more?”

Dr Giesecke: “I think the scientific evidence to support mask wearing are very thin.”

Finally, each speaker was offered the chance to give their final thoughts to the committee about responding to Covid-19. Dr Giesecke said:

“Two things. Watch out for undemocratic decisions that are using emergency legislation in the case where it may not be needed. That’s number one. Number two is this will be with us for a long time. We will have to learn to live with this virus. Unless a very good vaccine comes out before Easter which I doubt. Thanks for inviting me.”

Earlier: Herdy Gurdy

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

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Labour TD Michael McNamara, left, with Labour Senator Ivana Bacik and former Labour leader Eamon Gilmore

In Village magazine, Michael McNamara, a Labour TD, writes:

“When Irish Water was established, it was deliberately placed outside the parliamentary questions process by two parties in government, including my own, that had spent years criticising the fact that the provision of vital health services was not susceptible to parliamentary questions.

The minister who took the Irish Water legislation through all stages of the Dáil in one afternoon – despite a clear commitment in the programme for government that there would be two weeks between all stages – has had a change of mind since he lost ministerial office.

What is it about the advice of civil servants that is so enchanting that their commitment to keeping information from the public they serve is always followed by their political “masters” who subsequently go into opposition and complain that they cannot get information from government on behalf of their constituents?

One of the first things this Government did after extending the Freedom of Information system was to close it down again when it came to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal – one of the shadiest areas of our justice system and it did so by ramming a motion through the Dáil with a limited debate on the last sitting day before a break.

Yes, this government brought the economy back from the edge which was one of its main tasks. But it failed to address the underlying problems and causes of what went so badly wrong. This government could have tackled corporate culture here, changed how this country is governed and how those who provide public services are held accountable to the public.

Instead, it spent too long just revelling in being in government. To date, it has comprehensively failed to carry out the task it set itself and for which it received a mandate – to reform how the business of government is done.”

Coalition has comprehensively failed to reform business of government: Labour TD (Village magazine)

Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland