Tag Archives: Stephen Donnelly

This evening.

More as we get it.

UPDATE:

Earlier…..

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (left) with acting Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health last month

This afternoon.

Short circuit in the Donnelly mainframe or the lurgy?

It’s a waiting game.

Rollingnews

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly

This lunchtime.

RTÉ News at One.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly stumbles while discussing measures requiring restaurants and pubs serving food to retain records of all food orders for 28 days.

*burp*

Earlier: The Eatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

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

Last night.

On Virgin Media News, Zara King interviewed Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

From the interview:

Zara King: “Minister Donnelly, at a time when the Government is asking people to work from home where possible until the 13th of September, how can you justify sending thousands of children, from thousands of households, back into a classroom setting from next week.”

Stephen Donnelly: “The classroom setting is a controlled environment. So what’s been happening over the last few weeks and indeed months, is the Department of Education has been working very closely with public health experts and now the teachers, the principals to make sure that the infection prevention and control measures that are required are in place.

“So our homes, most of our homes are not controlled environments but schools are. And so they’re fundamentally different and are considered different from the public health doctors.”

King: “But minister, do you appreciate and understand that people are worried, they’re concerned, they don’t feel comfortable or confident about sending their children back to school next week?”

Donnelly: “I think every one of us is worried, we’re dealing with an awful virus, that we’re still learning a lot about. I’ve got three primary school kids. It would be a very unusual situation for us not to be worried. I mean we worry about our children going back to school when there’s no Covid. Of course we worry about our children going back to school. No question about it.

“We manage risk in our lives. Every time we get into a car, you know, driving a car is an inherently risky thing to do. So we have seat belts and we have rules of the road. We have all of these things. Playing sports is an inherently risky thing to do, you know.

“Our children being on trampolines is an inherently risky thing for them to be…”

King: “But are we comparing that, minister, to a global pandemic? To a virus that kills people? It’s not the same as playing sports really, is it?”

Donnelly: “Well driving cars, people die on the roads, lots of people die on the roads…like…”

King: “The risk is much higher though and we’re aware of that are we not when it comes to the virus?”

Donnelly: “Well the risk is not necessarily much higher. This is about recognising there are things we do in life which inherently carry a risk and we got to manage that risk and unfortunately until we have a vaccine, widely distributed for Covid-19, that is the case. That’s what the measures are about. They’re about saying ‘let’s move now, let’s not move until community transmission goes up and up, let’s move now to do what we know will work to reduce community transmission so that the schools can reopen’.”

Via Virgin Media News

Yesterday: “Is There A Magic Number For Schools, Pubs Or Anywhere Else? There Isn’t”

 Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health

“the average number of close contacts per case was 5 and the median was 3

Does this not indicate that people are continuing to keep their contact circles pretty small – and/or are maintaining social distancing – without any Garda powers? 

Anyone?

Earlier:“Is There A Magic Number For Schools, Pubs Or Anywhere Else? There Isn’t”

Meanwhile…

Um.

Last night.

RTÉ One’s Prime TIme.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly interviewed by Mark Coughlan (top right) attempted to explain the logic behind the the new Covid measures.

Stephen Donnelly: “If you look around Europe and if you look at the amount of cases per population, we’re exactly mid-table. Unfortunately we have one of the highest growth rates of the virus anywhere in Europe. And so what we’re doing is we’re saying ‘let’s act now…let’s act before we’re closer to the top of that table and before we need to make much more serious restrictions’.”

Mark Coughlan: “So what’s gone wrong? How did we get here?”

Donnelly: “I don’t think it’s a question of what’s gone wrong. We’re dealing with a vicious, deadly and highly contagious virus. And what’s happening here is happening all over the world. In Europe but further afield, we’re seeing it in South Korea, in New Zealand and in other places. The broad pattern is: there was a surge here and other places, very harsh and restrictive measures were used, they worked…”

Coughlan: “They were supposed to give us time to implement a system that would allow us to control the virus…”

Donnelly: “Yeah, I think that’s fair…”

Coughlan: “And we had that time, did we not?”

Donnelly: “Yeah, yes, and I think this is that. So controlling the virus is rapid testing and tracing. We had about 52,000 tests last week. We’ve a massive upswing in testing now so we’re doing testing right around the country for meat processing plants, for direct provision, for nursing homes. I’m meeting the HSE tomorrow to see how we can get quicker and quicker. We’re increasing enforcement powers. The Minister for Justice and myself are working on that.

“And what we’re doing now is that we’re going to take very targeted measures, not the broad and very severe measures that were taken in the past, we’ve learnt about this. We’re moving quickly. In order to make sure we get the schools up, in order to make sure we get health services open. In order to save lives and in order to protect jobs because we all know that if we end up in a second serious national lockdown then the consequences, personally, for our communities and for our economy would be very, very serious.”

Coughlan: “You spoke about testing and tracing now. Why are we still trying to speed that process up? Surely that should have been properly in place by now?”

Donnelly: “Well, I don’t think we’ll ever stop trying to speed it up. Our testing…”

Coughlan: “But we were talking about 24-hour turnarounds back in, I think, May and we’re still looking at 72/three-day turnaround times. Why aren’t we at a 24-turnaround?”

Donnelly: “So we are, from test, from someone getting a swab to getting a result. Has there been something of a lag when we saw an awful lot of cases appear very quickly, there has and the HSE has been working very hard on that.”

Coughlan: “That was supposed to be the capacity?”

Donnelly: “The capacity is there, the capacity is there for 100,000.”

Coughlan: “Yet we saw a slowdown.”

Donnelly: “We did, so the capacity is there for 100,000 – that’s what means we can respond and say ‘we’re doing all meat processing plants’, ‘all direct provision’, ‘all nursing homes’. What we did see was a very low level for about a month, about 20 cases a day. In a matter of days, that shot up to many, many times that. We didn’t have the resources in place to instantly respond to that. It did take two or three days longer.”

Coughlan: “But you knew factories were a risk at the time? For the last few months, we’ve known factories were at risk. The whole system was supposed to be agile and robust to respond to incidents like this. And yet, you just said yourself, it didn’t.”

Donnelly: “Well it did, the system is agile, the system is robust.”

Coughlan: “But it slowed down.”

Donnelly: “It did slow down and we’re looking at making sure that doesn’t happen. But if you compare us to some other countries. Take New Zealand, New Zealand is held up as a paragon of success in all of this. New Zealand’s target time is five days. Our target time is three days and we’re looking at reducing that. The HSE has done amazing work. One of the things that happened was with a very quick upswing. There weren’t some of the clinicians in place to make the calls as quickly as we would have liked. Why? Because they’re clinicians who were pulled from their own frontline work. They were rightly redeployed. However, the HSE is working on a more permanent system that doesn’t require pulling other clinicians in.”

Coughlan: “When will that be in place?

Donnelly: “We’re working on it right now. I’m meeting them tomorrow and they’re already making improvements to it so…”

Coughlan: “So if there’s another surge in the next week, will it be ready? Or is it a month-long thing or?”

Donnelly: “No it’s happening already. So there’s a whole team in UCD has been stepped up. There’s a team in UCC who’s being stepped up at the moment so that capacity is being put in place very quickly. Would we have loved to have seen no lags when we saw the outbreaks in some of the Midlands? Sure. But as with every other country, we are learning as we go. And I think the HSE made a very reasonable decision to redeploy clinicians to their day jobs when the cases were low and they pulled them back in quite quickly when the cases shot up.”

Later (in relation to new powers being provided to the gardai and after Mr Donnelly said he had been working with the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on these new powers)

Donnelly: “What we want to do is we want to say, look, it’s clearly no longer enough to say ‘we need everyone to follow the guidelines’. We all know that there are more and more house parties happening. And unfortunately nobody wants to be the guy that says ‘stop the house parties’ but unfortunately, the data that the public health doctors have is unambiguous and that it is causing a spread.

And whilst maybe the people at these parties are not at risk themselves, although they could well be, it’s entirely possible that they’re then carrying the virus to people who are at risk. So the decision we’ve taken is to say in cases like this or in cases where we have bars that are clearly just not obeying the same guidelines that the vast majority of the country obey, we are moving from recommendation and guidelines to enforcement powers and I think that’s the right thing to do and I think the public want to see that. Because we are asking everybody to make sacrifices again and again and again. We can’t have a situation where a very small group of people say ‘you know what…'”

Coughlan: “So that’s going to take legislation is it not? That’s going to take legislation which, as I understand it, won’t be enacted until the Dail returns which is September the 15th and yet these measures will be finished by September the 13th, no?”

Donnelly: “We will take a look. Primary legislation obviously takes a bit of time and we will be looking for the co-operation obviously across the political spectrum. The timing on that hasn’t been worked out but the message we’re sending out is this: is that while the vast majority of people are complying which is why we’re still mid-table in Europe and not in a worse situation, we can’t have situation where a small number of people essentially thumb their nose at everybody else. And we’re saying, ‘look, from now on, we are, as quickly as we can, we’re gonna bring in enforcement powers and that does require primary legislation’.”

Coughlan: “So all this is to try and bring the incidence rate down essentially, isn’t it, in the country? So it takes a while for all the cases to process through the system, several weeks. Yet in two weeks time we’re sending everybody back to school or to college. Is there not a contrast there or a difficulty in all that?”

Donnelly: “No, I think this is exactly why we’re acting now. So the measures that we, the State, take now, and that we, the people, take now are to reduce community transmission and the single best protection for the schools, by going back, which is still on track and a core government priority is reduced community transmission. That also, by the way, is the best protection for people in nursing homes, for people who may have underlying health conditions who are living at home. This is all about reducing community transmission and the prevalence in the community as low as possible.”

Coughlan: “And that’s what the local lockdowns in Laois, Kildare and Offaly were supposed to do too and seeing as we are where we are today, that obviously didn’t have the effect you were hoping it would have. Is there any situation in two weeks’ time, you’ll reconsider opening the schools?”

Donnelly: “Well, first of all…”

Coughlan: “Is there an incidence rate, is there a kind of a high bar or anything like that, that the Government has even discussed or considered or is it schools will reopen, whatever happens?”

Donnelly: “So, first of all, just on the three counties, it is not the case that the measures haven’t had the desired effect. The measures are having the desired effect thanks to the work that the people in those three counties are doing. So, a bit like the measures we brought in now, had we not acted when we did with those three counties, the situation would be much worse. If we didn’t act now in terms of the measures we’re bringing in today the situation in two weeks or two months would be much worse and we would be looking at a national lockdown.

In terms of, is there a magic number for schools or for pubs or for anything else, there isn’t. So the public health team, they look at a lot of different things, they look at the cases, they look at whether the cases are going up or down, they look at where the clusters are, they look at how much community transmission is going on and a lot of other factors so that’s why we have the public health emergency team and the expert advisory group so they can look at a lot of really complex information and then come up with the recommendations.”

Coughlan: “Briefly, there was a lot of discussion earlier today about over 70s and new measures to be brought in, from my reading of it, the new measures are essentially, you know, limit your contacts, stay indoors as much as possible, is there anything that’s actually new in it that they should be thinking about or considering?”

Donnelly: “Yeah, there was reporting today which was simply incorrect and scared a lot of people. A lot of elderly people, I was talking to colleagues, Oireachtas colleagues, they said, they were getting a lot of phone calls from a lot of very worried and very angry people over the age of 70 saying ‘are we about to be locked into our homes?’, that is absolutely not the case, it was not the recommendation from NPHET and it was not considered by government.

“Let me try and paraphrase the Chief Medical Officer when he was asked exactly this because what you’re asking is public health advice. Essentially, what he was saying is people who are vulnerable to this virus, be it based on age or an underlying condition need to exercise very careful judgment over the next 26 days. The prevalence rate is higher than we want. We had it down to about 3 per 100,000. It’s now up, I think, at 26 per 100,000. That is a rate that causes serious risk for people. It is in the community more than it was and so the advice to people over 70, the advice to people who are more vulnerable to this is: exercise caution.

“So, for example, if you are planning on going on a holiday, on a staycation and you’re over 70 with an underlying condition, there’s no issue with that whatsoever so long as you’re limiting your social interactions…and to be honest, everything I have seen shows that those who are more vulnerable to this have been very seriously following the guidelines. Really, it’s a reiteration of that: to be very, very careful while the rate is where it is.”

Watch back here

Earlier: A Limerick A Day

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly

This morning.

Meanwhile….

A new colour-coded response is being considered by the National Public Health Emergency team as part of Ireland’s Covid-19 pandemic plan.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said NHPET has spent a considerable amount of time looking at how Ireland can move to a sustainable long-term plan and the colour-coded system is different to the original roadmap, or phases, outlined by the previous government

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Minister Donnelly said the phases were about providing time frames, but the codes are a warning system on where “we are at on any given day.”

He said he believes the measures introduced for Laois, Kildare and Offaly are very nuanced and it is possible that such measures will be introduced in other areas in the future.

NPHET considers colour-coded response to replace phases (RTÉ)

Rollingnews

Update:

Um.

Minister for Health Stephen Donelly at Dublin Castle yesterday

This morning.

RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said Covid-19 is ‘spreading at a fast rate’ around the world, and the five-day average cases in Ireland has jumped from ‘less than 10 to over 50 recently’.

Via RTÉ:

He said the rise in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 was being driven by clusters of cases all around the country and eight of these clusters were “quite significant”.

He said the National Public Health Emergency Team is unanimous and unambiguously of the view that things are “very, very finely balanced” and the Government decided to take a cautious approach.

Mr Donnelly said that international evidence shows the number of cases do rise when pubs reopen, but hoped in time that businesses and pubs might be able to reopen in a phased or regional basis.

Covid-19 community transmission ‘across country’, says Donnelly (RTÉ)

Meanwhile…

The Incoming President of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland has described the decision not to reopen all pubs next Monday as a “kick in the teeth“.

Paul Moynihan said publicans had done all that was asked of them to reopen in a safe and sanitised way and it was “very late in the day” to tell them they could not reopen on 10 August as expected.

Mr Moynihan said the number of Covid cases have been rising while most pubs remain shut and said there have been no increase in cases associated with pubs that serve food, which re-opened five weeks ago.

Last night: Fancy A Scoop?

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile…

Oh.

This afternoon.

Earlier….

This morning.

“We are essentially prioritising schools, healthcare facilities, the economy over the accelerated opening of the pubs. This was not done lightly.

We really do understand that there are publicans waiting and hoping that they would be able to open on Monday. But the public health advice is were we to open now them right now it could materially add to the possibility of a second wave and that’s just not a risk we could take.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (top left) to Bryan Dobson on RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland earlier

Meanwhile…

Mr Donnelly said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is very concerned given the ‘R’ number is now between 1.2 and 1.8.

The minister said if it is 1.8, then within three weeks we could see be up to 160 cases of Covid-19 per day.

The reproductive rate, or ‘R number’, indicates the number of people on average that an infected person will pass the virus on to.

Um .

Anyone?

Reopening pubs could ‘materially add’ to possibility of second Covid-19 wave, says Donnelly (RTÉ)

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly shows of the HSE/Department of Health Covid-19 tracing app on his phone yesterday

This morning?

The CovidTracker Ireland app, which has been in development since late March at a cost of €850,000, went live on Monday night.

However…

….it is the need for GPS location services to be enabled on phones using Google’s Android operating system in order for the app to work, a fact which only emerged after the application went live on Monday evening, that drew the most ire from privacy campaigners.

Android users currently represent roughly 39% of the Irish smartphone market, making it by some distance the dominant operating system here.

The HSE has stressed for two months that the app does not track location, with all elements of contact tracing operating under bluetooth ‘handshake’ functionality.

However, in order for the app’s exposure notification protocol to function on Android phones location services must be enabled so that a device’s bluetooth radio ‘beacons’ can be activated, with the app rendered useless without them.

Privacy concern over Covid tracing system (irish Examiner)

Meanwhile…

Anon writes:

The new app. has two Dublin locations: “North Country Dublin” and “South Country Dublin“. UK designers?

What a country.

Anyone?

Previously: Tracing App Report Card

Rollingnews