It’s nearly the end of October and Ireland is back in lockdown. Our 14 day averaged national infection rate has risen to over 300. Our island is divided and the north of the island is reported within the UK national rate which is over 400. But the daily rate of infection (per head) north of the border has been four times higher than that to the south. So I guess the contrast across that border should be a source of concern for health professionals. Yet, the island politics of peace agreements and an imminent divorce has implications for border patrols and isolationist if not exclusionist travel policies.
The global inconsistencies of healthcare reporting make it really hard for the lay observer to know what is happening both locally and at large. You’d have thought the opposite would be true after eight months of ‘concerted’ effort.
Dates aren’t universal any more. Europe for example documents statistics by week and even this is messy because the recent reports are for week 41-42. No less worrisome for that.
Death isn’t what it used to be. In Spain, it appears that you’d have to die with no underlying conditions to be counted dead by covid.
Some might say that here in Ireland a mistake was made. Some think we opened up too soon. Perhaps Ireland relaxed and relapsed. Whatever the cause, the problem is the nature of the relapse.
I met a friend for a few hours on a beach here in Dublin last week. Socially distant, we each are being super careful in consideration of the extreme vulnerability of people very close to us who are in health crises. Two geophysicists meeting so I brought him to the beach and the location where the first offset seismic test was conducted in 1849.
We talked of a discussion we had in July when last we met for a walk around a marina to the north of the city. We had predicted a second wave. We were wrong but not so very wrong. While we predicted it would hit mid-October, it started a week or two earlier. We predicted that it would exceed the April highs in both infections and deaths. We were half right. Thankfully, the deaths are much lower than we predicted, assuming the death certification process remains the same.
Not bad for two geophysicists with a rudimentary understanding of maths, exponentiation and statistics though without any training in medicine, virology or human psychology. Oh yes, we also predicted that the second wave would come as a surprise to most people including the government.
Why journal this? Why would I want to add more self-righteous noise?
I think that we all need to take responsibility for our own actions and those that we can influence. It’s down to us to work independently to minimise the problems. We may well all be in this together but the slogan also suggests that we rely on others to sort this out.
By way of analogy, our car is a form of bubble. I won’t start the engine in the car until everyone has put on their safety belts. That’s because I know I am both responsible and accountable for my passengers. It’s also because I have witnessed carnage after collisions on roads across the globe. I know from experience that it’s harder to be protective against threats we can’t visualise. I also know how hard it is to overcome the dozen or so cognitive biases such as anchoring and availability biases that Kahneman and Tversky described. Not only are these biases hard to overcome, they were so hard to observe, prove and describe in the first place that their description earned them a Nobel Prize.
We’re all on this stage together and we must all act our parts. Recently, I’ve had to listen to eulogies for friends while I stood, masked, outside the crematorium.
An international problem is that the overall stage direction is very poor which enables us be misdirected by the divas who are acting without any of the style or class that operatic diva’s normally exude. I write ‘diva’ because of the performance focus of current populist politicians. I can’t think of another word despite the gender implications. So I am referring to the dictionary definitions of the diva. Divas have a tendency to spurn the influence of others. Their character demands of them that they always stand out. They tend to be people focussed on their own objectives and achievements with an ability to overwhelm their detractors.
I predict many of these political divas will be with us for quite some time yet.
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