Covid-19 – Ireland acted sooner than UK, double the testing, less than half the deaths per 1m

A comparison between Ireland and England in dealing with the Covid-19 virus and their casualty rate seems to reinforce the importance of timing in locking down countries, and in testing rates.

Irish Central (March 17): Britain and Ireland’s differing approaches to Covid-19

The United Kingdom may be Ireland’s closest neighbor, but the two nations could hardly be further apart in how they are approaching COVID-19. 

They are virtually polar opposites and Britain’s approach could deeply impact the Republic of Ireland, especially since the countries share a significant border in Northern Ireland.

The UK has lagged behind Ireland (and indeed the rest of Europe) in implementing stringent measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus.

From a Twitter thread by historian and writer Elaine Doyle @laineydoyle (edited):

I don’t understand the British media. I really, really don’t. Basic things: Ireland and the UK started this pandemic with roughly the same number of ICU beds (6.5 per 100,000 for Ireland, 6.6 per 100,000 in the UK). If anything, the UK was slightly better off.

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(ICU beds is just one indicator of country preparedness. Germany and Austria have relatively low death sates compared to Italy, France and Belgium, but so do Portugal and Finland).

As of today, there have been 320 deaths from the coronavirus in Ireland, and 9,875 deaths in the UK.

So we adjust per capita – how many deaths per 100,000 people?

As of Saturday 11 April, there have been 6.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Ireland (now 6.8).

There have been 14.81 deaths per 100,000 people in the UK (now 15.6).

Guys, people have been dying at more than *twice the rate* in the UK.

That the UK’s closest neighbour, with almost the *exact* same starting line in terms of its health system, is having a wildly different outcome? Not saying Ireland’s a paragon of virtue! Loads to discuss & critique & make better!

But wait, it’s worse! Because if you compare the per capita death rate between Ireland and *England*, rather than the UK as a whole, England has almost *2.5* times the number of deaths as Ireland (14.81 deaths per 100,000 vs 6.5 deaths per 100,000).

So you have two English-speaking countries, with close cultural and historical associations, both with underfunded health systems, & comparable levels of ICU beds (almost half the EU average) going into the pandemic.

But England has more than 2.5 times the deaths? Why?

If you’re arguing over whether Boris & Co’s ‘herd immunity’ policy (& the resulting delay in lockdown) had any effect on death rates – here’s your angle, lads. You have a real-time A/B test happening *right in front of you*.

Because Ireland closed down earlier. Much earlier.

While Boris was telling the British people to wash their hands, our Taoiseach was closing the schools.

While Cheltenham was going ahead, and over 250,000 people were gathering in what would have been a massive super-spreader event, Ireland had *cancelled St Patrick’s Day*.

The four-day Cheltenham Festival is a meeting in the National Hunt racing calendar in the United Kingdom. It place annually in March at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire – Wikipedia

Daily Mail: Cheltenham Festival organisers say Boris Johnson’s trip to England-Wales Twickenham rugby match was one reason they didn’t cancel race meeting blamed for coronavirus spread  – since the festival took place hundreds of people have complained of getting symptoms of the deadly virus.

In Ireland, we watch a lot of British media and news, and let me tell you, it was like living in bizarro-world.

Because our Irish TV news was filled with very direct, serious pronouncements about what was coming. But when we switched to the British TV channels… *crickets*.

Particularly vivid for the weekend before Paddy’s Day. Rolling restrictions in Ireland, so no groups > 100, but pubs not yet closed. Video emerged of people singing in a pub in Temple Bar => public outcry, #shutthepubs trended, Health Minister comments, voluntary closure ensued.

 

I remember watching that video being posted on Twitter that Saturday night, and feeling sick to my stomach. How many people were being infected, at that very moment, singing along to the Stereophonics? It was such a huge crowd.

I assume there were people in Cardiff who felt the same way I did. But the difference was: I was supported by my government. You weren’t.

And that cost lives.

The Stereophonics gig was on the 14 March. Median 5-7 days to get sick, and let’s allow another 14 days to get seriously ill. The people infected at the Stereophonics gig were in hospital last week.

The people *they* infected will start dying next week.

Pandemics roll along exponential curves. The NYT (using @brittajewell’s calculations) showed it beautifully here:

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@brittajewell used US figures, & showed that if you started to stay home *this week* (March 13, at the time of publication), you could prevent 2400 infections. But if you started to home *next week* instead, you prevented 600 infections. (Those figures were based on US infection numbers at that point, with 30% growth rate per day. It’s not the UK.)

It’s weird, right? Exponential curves are really counter-intuitive. When they go up, they go up FAST. Timing matters, a lot. By staying home *this week* rather than *next week*, one person could prevent an extra 1800 infections. One person!

And as @jkottke pointed out, assuming a 1% death rate, that’s 18 lives saved. 18 lives saved, by the choices of one person to stay home for the week starting 13 March, rather than the following week. That Stereophonics gig? Was on 14 March.

Ireland cancelled Paddy’s Day on 9 March, initiating a series of rolling, controlled restrictions, from school closures & large group bans (12 March), to closure of non-essential businesses & social distancing, to full lockdown. It was precise, clearly communicated, controlled.

The UK closed their schools on 20 March, a full week after we closed ours. Full lockdown came to the UK on 23 March.

And while there was some muddied, confused advice in the UK between times (avoid non-essential travel from 16 March? don’t go to the pub, but then again, they’re still open, so maybe do?) – there was an abrupt about-turn, after the Imperial College report came out.

The comparisons aren’t neat between the two countries, because the processes (and nomenclature) were different. Technically, the UK went into lockdown *before* Ireland; but that’s not a fair comparison, as we were already operating our ‘Delay Phase’ from 12-27 March.

But I would argue the crucial difference lies in that two-week period: from 9 March, when we cancelled Paddy’s Day, to 23 March, when the UK govt finally (and abruptly) wheeled about, and went into lockdown.

And because the UK government delayed, distorted and distracted for those two weeks, the UK people ended up on the wrong part of an exponential curve, when lockdown started. And now, the UK has over twice the number of deaths per capita than Ireland.

But wait, it’s worse! HOW how HOW can it be worse.

Because: testing.

Because the UK figures only include deaths, in hospitals, from people who had already been tested positive for COVID-19. That sentence has a whole pile of clauses and commas, doesn’t it? Let’s break it down.

It means that a person could die *in a UK hospital* of the coronavirus; and all their doctors could agree that yes, they definitely died of coronavirus; and their *death cert* says that yes, they did, in fact, die of coronavirus –

… and they wouldn’t be included in UK figures.

Because they weren’t tested.

And you have to have a positive test, before death, to be counted in the UK deaths.

The UK isn’t testing nearly as much as it needs to.

And Ireland is testing a *lot* more. We have a drive-through testing centre in the sacred sporting grounds of Croke Park – think turning Wembley Station into a testing centre, and you get somewhere close.

Ireland is still building its testing capacity, but we’ve been explicitly following the South Korean model of test, test, test (and contact trace). And we’re using our time in lockdown to build our testing network.

The aim is to have 15,000 tests per day, or 105,000 tests per week – that is, testing 2% of the population a week. 15,000 tests is about 7 months of flu testing for Ireland – and we’re planning this, every day, for months and months.

We’re not there! We had to grab Germany for a dig-out, we fell so far behind! There’s loads of teething problems! Like I said at the top of the thread: I’m not saying that Ireland is a paragon of virtue here.

Of course no country has dealt with Covid-19 perfectly, it was a rapidly evolving with big decisions needing to be made quickly that had huge health, economic and social ramifications. Not easy for any country to get things right.

And to date, Ireland has performed 8.69 tests per 1,000 people. ourworldindata.org/covid-testing# The UK has performed 4 tests per 1,000 people.

Currently Worldometer shows Ireland with 10.73 and the UK with 5.2 (New Zealand 12.68).

So: to my UK friends, let’s lay it out there. You’re testing at half the rate that Ireland is, and your loved ones, your family, your friends are dying over twice as fast.

So timing and testing have been very important.

And that’s still a wild underestimate of how bad things are, because your low testing rates are artificially depressing your death figures; whereas Ireland’s high testing rate is (comparatively) inflating ours (or, more fairly, accurately recording them in our figures).

Failed by your government, and failed by your media.

Failed, by news reports that (correctly!) talk about how horrific the death toll is in NYC, while eliding the horrors of nearly 1000 people dying in a single day at home.

Failed, because it didn’t have to be like this.

Failed, because there are lessons and exchanges to be found here, but in those 2 weeks when so much could have been done, your media didn’t pay any heed to what was happening beside it.

Because your media didn’t report on the contrast between Boris’ choices and ours.

Failed, because your media STILL isn’t reporting on the contrasts in death rates between us, and why that might be the case.

It’s too late to get the timing of even cancellations and lockdowns right, but not too late to ramp up testing.

Failed, because in this long-standing, complicated, skewed relationship between us, we can see you clearly, and you seem to barely see us at all.

And it breaks my heart.

But there’s still time. Time to flatten your curve. Time to build testing. Time to develop a robust contact tracing system. Time to *use* your lockdown as it should be used, while we do the same. Time to be our partners in this, as we all must be, in a globalised pandemic.

The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.

The best time to stop this pandemic was last January. The second-best time is now.

And while we’re working this ground together, remember that over the fence, in your neighbouring allotment, we’re tackling the same tasks as you. It might be worth taking a peek over the fence sometime, to see what we can share.

The UK seems to be similar to how France was, not counting deaths in rest homes.

Business Insider: Hundreds of coronavirus deaths are taking place in UK care homes but not being included in the official death toll

BBC: Warning over daily death figures

Over the weekend, NHS England released new figures broken down by the actual date of death.

And these reveal that between 11 March and 1 April there were about 300 more deaths than previously thought during that period.

Separate figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also suggest the number of people dying with coronavirus is higher than the daily totals indicate.

The ONS examined registrations and found deaths in the community not included in the daily hospital deaths figures.

In the week to 27 March, for the 501 deaths recorded in hospitals the ONS also found 38 deaths linked to coronavirus in the community.

Also from BBC:

Larissa Nolan (Irish Mirror:  7 April): UK and Ireland’s responses to Covid-19 crisis are worlds apart

For far too long, the Brits’ approach to this crisis was to stick their fingers in the ears, close their eyes and go: “Lalalalalala”.

Like many others in Ireland, I watched on; worried for relations and friends in England. What were they at over there?

British political leaders have subsequently made some attempts to address it, but it’s too late now. The “denialism” – as a senior British scientist called it – is too strong.

Reports from the weekend show Britons still gathering, regardless. Attitudes are ingrained. Behaviours have been set. Outcomes are following accordingly.

Here in New Zealand we don’t have such a stark contrast in approaches with our larger neighbour, Australia, except for timing. Covid-19 seemed to become established in Australia a few days sooner than here, particularly in New South Wales, but we lockdown harder and about the same time as Australia.

Current deaths in New Zealand 4, in Australia 59.

 

Rugby World Cup finals

On Friday night New Zealand beat Wales 40-17 to finish the Rugby World Cup with the bronze medals. The All Blacks played very well generally, bouncing back from their disappointing performance against a fired up and focussed England team in the semi-final. Wales played well at times, scoring two tries, but looked like they had run out of steam, and had lost some key players through injury.

Some of the players that missed out on the semi-final squad stepped up in their final game for the All Blacks, Ben Smith in particular who had been a surprise omission from the big games. And Sam Cane showed why he should have started the game last week. Selection mistakes may or may not have been costly against England – they played so well last week any All Bl;ack line-up would have struggled.

Last night in the final South Africa wore down England. It was a bit of a kick fest for most of the match, but they scored two very good tries in the last quarter with both wings touching down to win the final and their third world cup, beating England 32-12. They had an easier path through the play offs and had enough energy left.

England were warned they may have played their ‘final’ last week and that’s how it looked, they couldn’t lift themselves to the same heights last night. That’s not a surprise, near perfect performances usually don’t happen very often in any team sport.

England coach Eddie Jones was hailed as a hero last week, but couldn’t get his team over the final hurdle.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus wins the plaudits this time, having turned a struggling team around in a year to take the big four yearly prize.

So congratulations to South Africa, who clearly deserved their win, and became the first team to lose a pool match and go on the win the final. The draw may have helped, but that’s sport.

Rugby World Cup semi finals

Big games for four teams in the Rugby World Cup in Japan this weekend.

Tonight (Saturday) at 9 pm (NZ time) England will play New Zealand. It will be broadcast live on TV1.

Obviously this could go either way. At their best the All Blacks will be very hard to beat, but if England get their tactics and execution right, minimise mistakes and keep the ABs under pressure they are a real chance. Both countries had very good wins in their quarter final matches, so this should be  very good game.

I’d like the ll Blacks to win, but if England are good enough on the day to beat them then good on them.

Tomorrow night at 10 pm (NZ time) South Africa play Wales.

It’s hard too predict how this game will go. South Africa lost their first pool game (against the All Blacks), and haven’t really been tested since then. Japan put up a real fight in the first half last week but couldn’t get over the line to score, and succumbed to the power of the Springboks in the second half.

Wales did well to beat Australia in their pool, but they didn’t play very well against France last week. A red card reduced France to 14, and Welsh tenacity got them the win, just.

Another game that could go either way. As it should be.

I’m looking forward to both games with anticipation.

England worthy winners of Cricket World Cup

England were worthy winners of the Cricket World Cup just completed at Lord’s in London.

New Zealand’s Black Caps were worthy runners up.

They won by the smallest of margins. The scores were tied after 50 overs, 241 runs to each side. The scores were tied again after a super over, 15 runs each. England won due to the higher number of boundaries scored – that’s the rules so there can be no complaints about that.

There are a number rof things that happened during the game that could have made the difference, could have swung the game one way or the other, but in the end that is all irrelevant. What matters is the final score and the final deciding factor, and England did what mattered.

England have been a top one day team over the last few years and were tournament favourites. They had some wobbles during pool play but won their semi-final easily against defending champions Australia, and won the final just over New Zealand.

This is the first time England have won the World Cup, so very good for them, and despite some disappointment at the result I actually feel as good a as a loser could for the winning team.

The Black Caps exceeded my expectations against Inndia in their semi-final, and exceeded my expectations in the final. I always hoped they could win, and they came so close to doing so, but my main thoughts coming into this game were hoping they would wouldn’t lose badly, and that they would lose with credit.

They couldn’t have come closer so couldn’t have come out of this tournament with more credit, short of winning.

This was one of the greatest games of cricket ever and was also worthy of a final. It will be very good for the game to have had such a hard fought, close game, played in extremely good spirit by England and New Zealand.

Kane Williamson (New Zealand  captain):

“Look, it certainly wasn’t just one extra run. So many small parts in that match that could have gone either way as we saw. Congratulations to England on a fantastic campaign.

It’s been challenging, the pitches have been a little different to what we expected. Lots of talk of 300-plus scores, but we haven’t seen many of those.

I’d like to thank the New Zealand team for the fight they showed to keep us in the tournament, and get us this far. A tie in the final. So many parts to it. The players are shattered at the moment. Obviously it’s devastating. They’ve performed at such a high level through the tournament.

We were weighing up the overheads versus the pitch, it was on the drier side. runs on the board, as it proved, was going to be challenging. We would have liked another 20, but in a World Cup final we’ll take 240-250. Both sides showed a lot of heart, a lot of fight. For it to go to the last ball, and the last ball of the next match, it was pretty hard. That [the Stokes deflection] was a bit of a shame, wasn’t it? You just hope it doesn’t happen in moments like that. You can nitpick, but perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be for us. It is perhaps tough to review the match, and such small margins.”

Eoin Morgan (England captain):

“There wasn’t a lot in that game, jeez. I’d like to commiserate with Kane. The fight, the spirit they showed. I thought it was a hard, hard game.

This has been a four-year journey, we’ve developed a lot over those years, particularly the last two. To get over the line today means the world to us. The guys in the middle keep us cool, the way they play, the experience. It’s calming at times. Not a lot between the teams. Just delighted we’re lifting the trophy today.

As long as he wasn’t too cooked [sending Stokes back out for the Super Over]. Full credit to those two boys and Jofra. Every time he plays, he improves. The world is really at his feet at the moment.”

Semi-final – England versus Croatia

Croatia play England this morning at 6:oo am (NZ time) in the second football world cup semi-final.

The winner will play France in the final at 3:00 am on Monday morning (NZ time).

England, Croatia win world cup quarter finals

In the early hours (NZ time) England beat Sweden 2-0 in the third football world cup semi final. Hoes of something great are rising in England.

WTF is SWEENG?

England’s semi-final opponent is still to be determined, with the Russia versus Croatia game due to start soon.


Russia v Croatia 1-1 after 75 minutes of game time.

Still 1-1 at the end of normal time, so the game will go in to extra time.

Both scored goals in extra time, ending 2-2, so now a penalty shootout.

Croatia win the shootout 4-3.

Russia did very well to get this far, they were ranked 70 going into the tournament. Croatia was 20.

Semi finalists:

  • France versus Belgium (Wednesday 6:00 am NZ time)
  • England versus Croatia (Thursday 6;00 am NZ  time)

 

French outrage over Trump comments on Paris attack

President Trump has offended the French after making some typically bizarre comments in a speech to the National Rifle Association  in Dallas, Texas.

Trump is well known for making stupid and insensitive comments. This just adds to the list.

RNZ: French outrage after US President Trump mimics Paris attackers

What did Trump say exactly?

“Paris, France, has the toughest gun laws in the world…” he told the NRA.

“Nobody has guns in Paris, nobody, and we all remember more than 130 people, plus tremendous numbers of people that were horribly, horribly wounded. Did you notice that nobody ever talks about them?

“They were brutally killed by a small group of terrorists that had guns. They took their time and gunned them down one by one. Boom! Come over here. Boom! Come over here. Boom!

“But if one employee or just one patron had a gun, or if just one person in this room had been there with a gun, aimed at the opposite direction, the terrorists would have fled or been shot.”

The French foreign ministry…

…called for the victims’ memory to be respected.

“France expresses its firm disapproval of the comments by President Trump about the attacks of 13 November 2015 in Paris and asks for the memory of the victims to be respected,” the foreign ministry said.

François Hollande, who was French president at the time of the attacks…

…said Mr Trump’s remarks were “shameful”. They “said a lot about what he thinks of France and its values”, he added.

Manuel Valls, who was France’s prime minister in 2015…

…tweeted: “Indecent and incompetent. What more can I say?”

That may sum up Trump very well.

He also prompted responses from London after saying:

“I recently read a story that in London, which has unbelievably tough gun laws, a once very prestigious hospital, right in the middle, is like a warzone for horrible stabbing wounds,” he said. “Yes, that’s right, they don’t have guns, they have knives, and instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital. They say it’s as bad as a military warzone hospital.”

Trump stabbed the air several times with an imaginary knife and muttered: “Knives, knives, knives.

Guardian: Trump’s knife crime comments are ridiculous, says London surgeon

The suggestion by Donald Trump that guns are part of the solution to knife crime in London is ridiculous, a trauma surgeon in the capital has said. The US president told the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas on Friday that a “once very prestigious hospital” in London was like a “warzone”.

He appeared to be referring to reported comments by Martin Griffiths, a lead trauma surgeon at the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, who likened the spate of stabbing victims coming through the doors to scenes in a military hospital.

Prof Karim Brohi, another surgeon at the hospital and the director of London’s major trauma system, said knife violence was a serious issue for London. “We are proud of the excellent trauma care we provide and of our violence reduction programmes,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “The Royal London hospital has cut the number of our young patients returning after further knife attacks from 45% to 1%.

“London hasn’t been used to that. They’re getting used to it. Pretty tough. We’re here today because we recognise a simple fact. The one thing that has always stood between the American people and the elimination of our second amendment rights has been conservatives in Congress willing to fight for those rights. We’re fighting.”

Charlie Falconer, a former justice secretary, said:

“Trump makes Londoners dislike him more, and the US dislike London more. Mutual dislike is not good as the UK leaves the EU. Trump gives the impression he couldn’t give a fig.”

Trump’s reception when he visits England in July was always expected to be far less receptive to him than the NRA or the staged ego stroking rallies he has in the US.

A fascinating game of cricket

Today’s one day match between England has taken a few swings, and is heading for an exciting finish.

England’s innings started with a rush and the Black Caps struggled. It looked like England could get close to 400, but they had a major mid order collapse, and they got to 335 with a big last over.

The Black Caps had a terrible start to their innings, with both openers going for a duck.

Williamson and Taylor slowly got things in order and progressed well, albeit falling behind the required rate. Then Williamson was unlucky to be ruled out.

In came Latham, and he and Taylor gradually progressed to innings to keep the Black Caps in the match, and then accelerated.

A couple of hiccups, with Taylor injuring himself so he could only hobble, and then Latham holed out, but he had 71 runs, and helped Taylor to a record score of (currently) 155 not out with a game rescuing 187 run partnership.

de Grandhomme has joined Taylor and has started with a rush, currently 22 runs off 8 balls, putting the Black Caps in with a real chance now with 36runs required off 34 balls.

That was tense. Down to the last over, a six to Nicholls to seal a record run chase and a win to remain unbeaten at the Oval in Dunedin.

Taylor was the stand out performer, 181 not out.

Women’s rugby world cup final

This deserves a post of it’s own, the highlights of the women’s rugby world cup final, with the Black Ferns beating England 35-29.

All Blacks and Black Ferns

Last night in Dunedin the All Blacks had a shocking first 15 minutes with Australia scoring 3 tries, one within a minute of the kick off through an AB mistake and leading 17-0,

The All Blacks played their way back into the game and took the lead mid way through the second half. Australia snatched the lead back with a late try, but the AB responded with a superb try under pressure to win by 35-29.

It was a very good come back by Australia from their performance last week, and it was great to have an exciting game down to the wire.

Black Ferns

The Black Ferns are currently playing England in the final of the women’s world cup. England led 17-10 at half time.

England seem to be tiring and the Black Ferns have put the after burners on, to jump out to a 41-25 lead late in the second half.

A late try to England but it looks to be too late for them to come back now.

The Black Ferns have won 41-32!

An electrifying end to the match captured here: