There is such an obvious solution to the problem of crèches closed, with health care workers torn between going to their workplace and minding their children, I can’t believe I am the first to suggest it. Nationalise them (same as has been done with the private hospitals). In times of crisis the traditional Keynesian solution is to expand the state to provide jobs and increase tax. Fiscal relaxation. This now is relevant to the health care sector (hospitals and care homes), to the education sector (schools and universities), and to child care (crèches).
The refusal of the insurance companies to cover the risk of getting Covid19 when a child care worker goes into the homes of HSE staff is a useful example of why the private sector doesn’t work. Suppose the state took over crèches, regulated them and indemnified them, there is a win-win all round. The state would continue to make the Covid19 sick payment to any staff who contract the disease at work. The state would ensure regulations were enforced and the best practices possible in keeping the children and staff safe. And the state would be taking the pressure off those private crèches who can no longer afford the exorbitant insurance premiums.
By nationalising child care we would be fulfilling our promise in the Proclamation of 1916 declaring that the Irish Republic would "resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”
It is 2020, over a hundred years later, and we must take note that our governments of the last forty years have fostered differences which have divided a minority (the wealthy) from the majority (the poor, the just about managing, the disenfranchised).
Let us seize the moment, supported by our diaspora in America, the United Kingdom, and by our gallant friends in the European Union; let us, Irishmen and Irishwomen, become a nation striking for social equality on our own strength, let us strike in full confidence of victory.
© Alison Hackett (this blog was first published in the Irish Examiner on 16 May 2020)
#COVID19 #IrelandLockdown #Restart
The problem right now is that there is a balancing act being played out between medical science and political pragmatism. If science had its way the lock down would extend indefinitely until there was a vaccine or a treatment for Covid19. Medical science has been guiding decisions so far, but treating the country as if it were a giant hospital won’t work in the long term. Businesses closed, mass unemployment. People cancelling their malignant cancer operations they are so scared of being in a hospital. Strokes and heart problems unattended. Mental health issues. Other problems have not gone away. Covid19 is not Ebola. Everyone is not going to die.
The reality of politics means that some people are allowed to tell the rest of us what to do. Few of us dwell on the underlying trade-off between personal liberty and collective choice: it is built into our constitutions and democracies — the social contract. Philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes (in 1651) and Jean Jacques Rousseau (in 1762) were thinking about this, the legitimacy of government and the science of morality, hundreds of years ago.
The point is, individuals consent to surrender some freedoms and submit to the authority of the state (the people we elect in a democracy) in exchange for the protection of their remaining rights and maintenance of the social order. The troubling bit is what will the state do with its power?
Here, we were given a date, 5th May, when our good behaviour would be rewarded with more freedom. We have fulfilled our side of the recent bargain the state made with us — to permit a police state/house arrest in the short term. We have successfully suppressed Covid19 in the community while preparations were made in hospitals, staffing, beds, equipment, PPE, ventilators — these actions are to be highly commended. And of course we need to maintain social distancing in public, hand washing, hygiene etiquette. and we must remember that the government has the right to bring back another lockdown should it be needed.
But now the politicians need to show courage and consider changing to a hybrid of the models used in Sweden and South Korea in the following way.
Vulnerable members and over seventies are still advised to continue to cocoon. If they choose not to (cocoon), and in my view they should be free to make this choice, the state must make every effort to ensure they understand the risks. This includes the risk that the health service is overwhelmed; that there may not be a bed for you; that you may be triaged, put further back in the queue, behind another who is deemed more urgent. This is similar to educating people about the risk of smoking, overeating, undereating, lack of exercise, poor diet, excessive alcohol, crossing a busy road, or getting into a boat without a lifejacket.
The South Korean model (which has kept deaths to a minimum) uses an algorithm: Leave the house and go to a public space the authorities have the right to take your temperature. If you have a temperature you are not allowed to return home, you are brought to a centre for follow up with a chest x-ray and then a Covid19 test if indicated. If you test positive for Covid you are isolated and treated in the centre until you are negative. Comprehensive contact tracing follows up to test all those you may have infected. This kind of authority and right of the state I would support.
In Ireland in 2019 there were 8,618 deaths in the first quarter. On average this is equivalent to seventy-one deaths per day. Yes, the death rate will be higher for 2020 due to the coronavirus, but shouldn’t the daily expression of regret and sadness about Covid19 deaths be extended to all the deaths in Ireland that day?
It is not okay that we have allowed people to die without their loved ones seeing them, that they are buried without ceremony or celebration, no loving goodbye. A way must be found for families to visit elderly relatives and to maintain social contact. We need hope now, and this hope is nothing simpler than the freedom to see and hold and be present with the people we love.
#coronavirus #covid19 #TheState #social-contract #lockdown
© Alison Hackett 8 April 2020
I love the Guardian. Every day it my reading go-to place as it offers high quality free online news. Rare these days. Don't forget you can donate to support its journalism. I do.
However, the frightening headline to an item on the Guardian's news blog stream in recent days made me pause. It stated that "The death rate of those admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 has topped 50%, according to the latest figures". The post was made at 08.11 on 4 April and based on data compiled by the UK’s Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre.
But on a closer look I realise this is an incomplete audit of 2249 patients as all outcomes are not yet known (although it is being conducted in real time). To present the mortality rate of less than one third of the patients in the study sample “whose care outcomes are known” is cherrypicking from the data, and thus misleading. Outcomes are still not known for more than two thirds of the group ("1559 patients still in critical care"). To a causal reader it might appear that 50% of people in intensive care with coronavirus were going to die.
Now that I'm checking my facts for this blog I have just found an almost identical report in the Mirror — so which came first in this misleading report, The Guardian or The Mirror? Looks like the Guardian posting at 08.11am (but I can't find and prove that post anymore). Either way it is a good example of how all the news these days (as it probably ever was) is recycled. Fake or not.
A more measured approach is to wait to see how many of the remaining patients in critical care die, and how many recover to be discharged. Then, and only then, is it right to compare a possible coronavirus mortality rate with a historic rate for seasonal flu between 2017 and 2019 (which has 100% known outcomes, i.e. hindsight). Indeed coronavirus is likely to have a higher mortality rate, but lets wait for the facts, i.e. all the data, before jumping to conclusions.
It's a fact. There are lies, damned lies….and statistics.
#coronavirus #covid19 #TheGuardian #statistics
© Alison Hackett 8 April 2020
If you did a SWOT analysis of the world (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) the threats would include the fact that one nation, China, has become the world's factory while a second real danger is narcissistic amoral leaders. Opportunities include the option to adopt global socialism and for profiteering (between nations and within nations) to be classified as a war crime. Weaknesses are, at a glance, our very human desire for an easy life (laziness) and our propensity for greed. The world’s greatest strength is its natural environment and, for now, the fact that we, its highest ape, have a common humanity, a need for tribe, a need to belong.
© Alison Hackett 25 March 2020