Thursday 12 March 2020

The End of Days

Ireland is a laissez-faire live-and-let-live kind of country. We don't want to get too smug about it because Ann Lovett - Tuam - Kerry Babies - Maurice McCabe - The blue-eyed blonde Traveller. A century of right-centre-right governments have pushed the democracy of Anatole France: The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. La loi, dans un grand souci d'égalité, interdit aux riches comme aux pauvres de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.

But the country done good and was ahead of the curve on "free" plastic bags - passive smoking - free the gays.  The word on the street is that we're about to show the world that we can lead the pack on doing something about Covid-19: Ireland's 3.1 billion-euro package to fight coronavirus amounts to almost 630 euros per person—four times Germany's measures, and 30 times the U.S.

Covid not corvid, fool!
Less than a week ago, I said this couldn't / wouldn't be done: Trinity College Dublin wasn't about to shutter-up because one Corona Positive had been tooling up and down in the lifts of one building. On Tuesday following that indeed happened: TCD has banned lectures as a potential breeder reactor for virus transmission; and closed the Science Gallery and Kelly's Book - two major foreign income and kudos earners for the college. This was in contravention of the 'advice' from the HSE / DES / HEA axis; which is that all schools and colleges should stay open. U Limerick is moving in the same direction. There seems to be a tendency to secrecy by the agencies of The Man under the guise of being circumspect. The Institute, which is currently paying me too much money, is carrying on without much evidence of thought, let alone action, about the matter. Maybe I do them wrong and The Man here is just keeping calm as the crisis unfolds. Turns out that Ireland is punching way above its weight for borrowing money and throwing it at the crows Covid-19: Ireland's 3.1 billion-euro package to fight coronavirus amounts to almost 630 euros per person—four times Germany's measures, and 30 times the U.S.

My rumour mill says that schools and colleges in the Republic will be required to shutter at close of business on Friday the Thirteenth (tomo!). That a travel lock-down will be implemented on Wednesday 18th March, giving folk a chance to get to their bunkers immediately after St Patrick's Day. I'll let you know about the bunker as soon as I have completed the inventory of beans and ammo. My contemporary P in America suggested that it was a sad thing for my last few working weeks to be ragged around by the uncertainty and disruption of Covidology. The retirement Do of a work-colleague who retired a year ago, he been postponed because it was an 'indoor gathering of the vulnerable'. I hope that the old chap will hold on until we're ready to send him off - if you get my drift. I am okay with the Covid changes: It's a little like TS 'Misogenist' Eliot's quip
"This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."
I've recently been pointed at two informative mathematical analyses, one graphic, one narrative, for why closing public buildings, limiting contact and washing hands are all good things. They are both informed by this tweet from  9th March:
The implication is that we are but 17 days behind Italy and on the same deadly trajectory.  Back to longer sources! Last night saw the first Covid-19 death in Ireland; are any of the midterm Italian Alps skiiers feeling a sense of guilt or responsibility for this early check-out? The cited narrative demands What’s your risk of dying of COVID-19 - or inadvertently allowing the death of someone in your community? Because the on-line readership [younger, richer, fitter, better fed] is not really the front-line demographic for dying they are being asked to confront the evidence and extrapolations for their potential to kill someone else if they don't change their own behaviour. In my book this is certainly an excellent start: "First, some ground rules. We’re doing rough order-of-magnitude estimations, so none of our inputs need to be precise. I’m going to use the best estimates I have, and not round things to a multiple of 10 unnecessarily, but I’m not going to use more than one significant figure of precision to avoid conveying any incorrect illusion of certainty."

If you only have six minutes you'd better listen to, the often excellent, 3Blue1Brown on Exponential growth and epidemics. Here's the one pic answers all, executive summary:
It is to emphasise the exponential growth importance of, and sensitivity to, the daily rate of change. In Italy in Feb and Mar 2020, the daily increase in Covid-19 cases was a fairly steady 15% [as in the (1.15) in the above summary]. The formula implies that, if the growth continues steadily, in 61 days the number of cases with have climbed from a tad above 20,000 to a good bit over 100 million. IF they could reduce the rate of growth from say 15% to 5%, THEN they don't have a similar 3-fold change in the end-point cases but rather a 1/250 reduction!

How can we reduce the number of daily new infections? Two ways:
1) minimise contact with other people lest a) you have the virus and b) <coff> <coff> your load at those other people
2) wash your hands and don't be poking them into your wet orifices

IF the Irish Government shows some leadership and, well, government and enforces some social engineering THEN we might show the Rest of the World that Ireland is a radical pioneer rather than a sad, reactive, reactionary, backward bunch of know-nothings.

Which is it to be? Mother-and-baby active neglect or free the vulnerable from a premature death?

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