Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The chickens come home to roost

by Frank Schnittger Fri Apr 3rd, 2020 at 04:15:52 PM EST

Today the UK has joined Italy, Spain, the USA and France in surpassing the total of Chinese deaths despite having had a couple more months to prepare and learn from the Chinese experience of dealing with what had been a new and unprecedented corona virus disease. European governments were slow to identify and react to the gravity of the threat while Trump dismissed the pandemic as nothing more than a Democratic party hoax and the deputy Chief Medical Officer for England dismissed WHO advice on dealing with the pandemic as being appropriate only for low and medium income countries.

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Bordering on madness

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 31st, 2020 at 03:00:08 PM EST

Covid-19 seems to be doing what even Brexit could not achieve - reinforcing the border within Ireland. From the get-go Ireland and the UK have been pursuing different strategies to deal with the Pandemic. Ireland has been pursuing the WHO mandated strategy of physical isolation, closing all schools and non-essential workplaces, testing as much as possible and tracing and isolating the contacts of those who test positive.

The UK, on the other hand, flirted with a "herd immunity" strategy, was slow to shut down mass sporting events, schools and non-essential work places, tested only those hospitalised and never attempted contact tracing. When presented with evidence by epidemiologists that this could lead to a quarter of a  million deaths Boris Johnson's government did a U-Turn and belatedly introduced much more comprehensive measures, all the while denying there was ever a change in policy.

However with the number of infections doubling every three days, the two week delay in implementing stricter measures could lead to a 32 fold increase in infections and deaths, and more if the health care system is overwhelmed. Even now, health care professionals in the UK cannot get tested unless hospitalised themselves, no contact tracing is being attempted, and suspect cases are told to self-isolate for 7 not 14 days, as is the case in the Republic of Ireland.

If the Republic succeeds in suppressing the disease while N. Ireland does not, the government may have little option but to close the border to prevent new infections being re-introduced via the north.

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And now for some good news about the crisis...

by Frank Schnittger Mon Mar 30th, 2020 at 02:16:22 PM EST

Perhaps its time to focus on some relatively good news in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The OECD estimates that the Irish economy will suffer the mildest shock of any OECD economy as a result of the crisis, a reduction of 15% in GDP. How anyone can make such estimates with any precision at this stage in the crisis is beyond me, but there is perhaps some logic behind that prediction.

The Irish economy is heavily invested in sectors where working from home is widely possible such as financial services and software development, and also in the pharmaceutical and medical devices sectors which may grow as a result of the crisis, and may actually make a major contribution towards combating it.

Medtronic, (based in Dublin and Galway) has just made the design specification and software of one of their ventilators public to enable it to be more widely produced by other companies, and a collective of medical equipment design engineers from a number of companies have just completed the design of a "battlefield" emergency ventilator which could be manufactured rapidly all over the world.

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LQD: Merkel does Leadership

by Frank Schnittger Sun Mar 29th, 2020 at 11:48:46 AM EST

The Leader of the Free World Gives a Speech, and She Nails It

Angela Merkel doesn't do drama and she doesn't give speeches on TV. So the mere fact that the German chancellor faced the camera across a desk and spoke to the nation Wednesday evening made the gravity of the situation clear. "Es ist ernst," she said--"This is serious"-- and those three bland words had more power than a hellfire sermon. Then she pivoted from statement to plea: "Take it seriously." Quickly, she moved on to historical context, the reason for her unprecedented impromptu appearance: "Since German unification--no, since the Second World War--no challenge to our nation has ever demanded such a degree of common and united action."

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Report from Taiwan: Friends Return to the USA to Compare & Contrast

by gmoke Sat Mar 28th, 2020 at 06:13:46 PM EST

My friends and former co-workers, Marc and Sally, love to travel the world and this year spent some of February and March in Taiwan.

This is their account of the response of Taiwan to COVID19, the letter they sent to friends after they arrived back home on March 19, 2020:

As the Deads so eloquently sang, "What a long, strange trip it's been!"

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

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Batten down the hatches...

by Frank Schnittger Sat Mar 28th, 2020 at 12:25:46 PM EST


The number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 surged by 302 yesterday, the highest daily increase so far. There are now a total of 2,121 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and 22 deaths to date. Update [2020-3-28 20:11:29 by Frank Schnittger]: 294 new cases and 14 new deaths today. Update [2020-3-29 18:27:1 by Frank Schnittger]: 200 new cases and 10 new deaths 29/3 - the first significant reduction in new cases in the series...[end update] The total number of cases has been doubling roughly every 4/5 days, which is somewhat better than was forecast at the start of the outbreak. Up to last Wednesday, 419 patients had been hospitalised with the disease and 59 of these had been admitted to ICU.

Given the shortage of ICU beds hospitals are now operating at close to capacity and the government has just issued its strictest restrictions  yet, basically saying everyone should stay at home for the next two weeks except for the purposes of buying essential food or medical supplies or a much more tightly defined list of essential work.

It is a lockdown in all but name, and pretty much the last shot in the governments locker - one last attempt to "flatten the curve" and, if possible, suppress the disease. Compliance, so far, seems to be high. The first death of a healthcare worker is adding to the sombre mood, although the situation doesn't seem to be quite as chaotic as in the UK's NHS, h/t  ThatBritGuy.

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The Covid-19 Patterns are changing

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 26th, 2020 at 10:49:27 PM EST


The table above is continuously updated here and by John Hopkins University here.

The pandemic patterns are changing, with the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases now in the USA, despite a lack of a timely and comprehensive testing regime. Italy and Spain are still leading the mortality column with France also moving up the table. On a per capita basis, Luxembourg and Switzerland actually have a higher confirmed infection rate per million inhabitants and there is some hope that the rate of new infections is actually beginning to slow down in Italy where new infections have increased by less than 10% per day for the past four days in a row.

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Ireland becoming a socialist state?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 24th, 2020 at 10:45:56 PM EST

The Irish government, led by the most conservative major party in the state, has instituted a number of emergency measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic:

  1. The government will fund 70% of workers salaries up to a maximum of €410 per week tax free in businesses effected by the crisis.
  2. Social welfare, unemployment, and sick pay is increased from €203 per week to €350 p.w.
  3. The government is taking over all private hospitals and incorporating them into the public hospital system for the duration of the crisis.
  4. A rent freeze and ban on evictions.
  5. The cost of these measures is estimated to be €3.7 Billion over the next 12 weeks - greater than the total annual budget surplus estimated prior to the crisis.

Read more... (30 comments, 347 words in story)

The patterns of a pandemic

by Frank Schnittger Mon Mar 23rd, 2020 at 11:53:13 AM EST


Update [2020-3-23 23:40:41 by Frank Schnittger]:Table updated

You can find the table above constantly updated here, where you can also sort it by each column header.

A number of factors can influence the spread and mortality rate of the pandemic in different countries:

  1. Timing - the number of days since the first case in a region
  2. Preparedness - the ability of local hospital facilities to cope with rapidly elevating demand
  3. Timing and effectiveness of counter-measures taken - principally non-pharmaceutical interventions like the closure of schools, pubs, restaurants, non essential business contacts, sporting events, and the practice of self isolation, physical distancing and personal hygiene.
  4. Level of testing and contact tracing
  5. Demographics - older people (and men), especially with pre-existing serious medical conditions, are disproportionately at risk

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From Outbreak to a Global Pandemic

by Oui Sun Mar 22nd, 2020 at 10:01:38 AM EST

No, Mark Rutte can be accused of intentional neglect by following the suggestion of his chosen scientists on "herd immunity". The RIVM is still not following WHO instructions to do the testing!

Minister President Mark Rutte of The Netherlands will be remembered in history, quite like Dutch PM Colijn during the military build-up in Germany and the outbreak of World War II ...

From my diary on March 14th ...

Outbreak -- Herd Immunity Is Damning!

More below the fold ...

Frontpaged- Frank Schnittger

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Sectarianism goes viral

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 19th, 2020 at 11:58:56 AM EST

Letter to the Editor

A Chara,

If I were charged with murder (and guilty as hell) I would hire your columnist, Newton Emerson, as my defence attorney. Based on his article "Sectarian split over school closures feels ominous", Opinion, 19 March, he would have even me believing in my innocence.

The whole point of the WHO (and now belatedly, the UK) expert advice is that the infection rate will increase exponentially until herd immunity is achieved unless there are radical interventions on the part of governments and peoples.

The further one is up that exponential curve, the more difficult it becomes to isolate and control the rate of infection. Exponentially more difficult. So days and even hours matter, and two weeks is an age.

There is , in any case, no evidence to support Newton's assertion that N. Ireland and the UK are two weeks behind Ireland in the course of this pandemic.

To try to cast those who sounded the alarm when they realised how serious this was all getting as engaging in sectarian politics is itself sectarian politics of the most crass kind almost equivalent to accusing Jews of alarmism and racism when they warned of Nazi atrocities.

Globally there could indeed be millions of casualties - and thousands in Ireland - before this is all over, and then those who delayed and procrastinated over essential measures will indeed be in the dock. Guilty as charged, I'm afraid.

Comments >> (37 comments)

Facing the Surge

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 17th, 2020 at 11:45:58 PM EST

I don't agree with his economic policies, and his party has just been roundly defeated in a general election by a people yearning for change. But every now and then it's nice to see some basic competence in your leaders. Leo Varadkar didn't announce any radical new measures in this broadcast to the nation and to the world on St. Patrick's day, but he got this speech just about right. The detail can come later.

For the full text, see here.

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CureVac In Germany: Trump's Failed Takeover Bid

by Oui Tue Mar 17th, 2020 at 09:44:25 AM EST

In a moment of global crisis, the worst of human kind outs itself ... or society can come together to fight a common enemy. The ultra-narcist in the leader of America came to the forefront: Buy the German vaccine and we'll market as ::

FOR AMERICA ONLY!

"We've got the BEST doctors, scientists, hospitals ... we're doing a great job. Very early I closed to borders to China ... saved thousands of lives!"

More below the fold ...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Infection rates - the numbers done simply

by ARGeezer Mon Mar 16th, 2020 at 12:52:57 AM EST

This diary was inspired by Frank's "Corona Virus gets Real' diary and Number 6's "Flattening the Cruve" comment.

Using figures from Wiki for numbers of infections reported by states it appears that the doubling rate is  a little more than two days. As of March 13 there had been 2,160 cases reported by US states. Rounding down to 2000 for that date and using two days as the doubling time interval, by March 31 there should be over 1,024,000 reported cases. By April 18 at a two day doubling interval 262,144,000 cases, or ~ 80% of the population could have been infected.

The cases by March 31 are unlikely to be affected by new 'social isolation' measures, as the incubation period is as much as 14 days, and most of these future patients are already infected. And these numbers are surely an undercount, as they are restricted to only those cases that have come to the attention of the medical profession and we rounded the first number down to 2000 from 2,160 for ease of presentation.

Continuing with this sequence through April, but assuming that on April 1 the social distancing has increased to doubling time to four days, so there are seven doubling times until April 28, when the number of infections are projected to be 131,072,000 - over a third of the US population.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Democracy in a time of coronavirus

by eurogreen Sun Mar 15th, 2020 at 02:31:58 PM EST

Today, municipal elections are being held, as scheduled, in France, while simultaneously the country switches into lockdown.

I see no conspiracy; on the contrary, the governments seems be in "rabbit caught in headlights" mode, and probably thought it would catch more flak from postponing the elections than from maintaining them. On the other hand, maintaining the elections in the current crisis may well be a useful way of de-fusing the political impact of elections which Government-aligned candidates seemed on track to lose badly.

Macron's "La République en Marche" movement has failed pretty miserably in its strategy to put down roots at a local level (Lyon is something of a special case, as we shall see). They are running lists in all major cities, but were not expected to win any. The crisis will overshadow the elections; depressed turnout will help de-legitimize any surge for the left; and perhaps there will be a "legitimist" reflex on the part of people who work that way, to soften their defeat.  

Personally, I'm a sort of microcosm of the divided French left : in Lyon, as is common in the larger cities of France, there are three competing lists from left of centre, and I have ties to all of them.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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The Corona Crisis gets real

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 12th, 2020 at 03:14:27 PM EST

The Covid-19 crisis is reaching a new phase in Ireland even though, to date, there has only been 61 confirmed cases and one death of an elderly patient with a pre-existing terminal illness. Update [2020-3-12 22:52:5 by Frank Schnittger]: there were 27 new cases in the Republic and 2 in N. Ireland today, resulting in a new total of 90 cases.[/update] The government has just announced a nationwide closure of schools, colleges and child care facilities and strongly recommended all indoor meetings of more than 100 people and outdoor meetings of more than 500 people should be cancelled.

This is in stark contract to the UK where the Cheltenham racing festival with many thousand spectators is going ahead as I write, and also to N. Ireland where no such measures have been announced despite the fact that the outbreak there is at least as serious as in the rest of the island.

The government have also announced a €3.1 Billion emergency aid package for people and businesses impacted by the crisis. On a per capita basis this amounts to almost €630 per person,which compares compares with just €21 in the US and €124 in Italy. Talks on government formation and all meetings considered non-essential have been postponed and President Trump has announced a travel ban on all Europeans from the Schengen area (excluding Ireland and the UK).

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Cranky Uncle vs Climate Change: a tool to fight disinformation

by a siegel Thu Mar 5th, 2020 at 05:25:55 PM EST

In the United States, since November 2016, election after election has made clear that Democratic voters will crawl over broken glass to get to the polls to defeat Trump and #Cult45-enabling Republicans. Massive turnout and voters waiting up to seven hours to vote in many Super Tuesday primary states is the latest tangible sign of that.

One of the reasons for this is that Donald Trump is the epitome, a real-life version of the stereotype of the rather lunatic, self-centered, loud, and arrogantly ignorant Cranky Uncle to be put in a corner by himself at family events in hopes that his rantings and rudeness don't blow the event.

George Mason University's Center for Climate Communication research Assistant Professor John Cook has just published a book that should be useful in putting that Cranky Uncle into the corner -- at least when it comes to the issue of climate science denialism (which is one of the (perhaps too numerous to mention) spaces of Trump's worst Cranky Uncle ravings).

Now, for some quick background ...

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

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Joe Biden Delivers A Decisive Blow to Bernie Sanders

by Oui Wed Mar 4th, 2020 at 08:54:12 AM EST

The big losers are Mike Bloomberg (minus $500m) and a valiant Elizabeth Warren.

Well, at least Mike has proven the Democratic primaries can't be bought by a single billionaire ... it's teamwork that matters Mike!

The BIG winner is Joe Biden, the come-back kid who won over Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to ride the wave of his SC victory. Biden got key delegates from all the states at stake on Super Tuesday. Experience, trust in the eyes of the voter and the DNC establishment made the difference yesterday.

More below the fold ...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Prepare for the breakdown

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 27th, 2020 at 02:35:27 PM EST

Both the EU and the UK have now published their mandates for their negotiating teams on their future relationship. As might be expected at this stage, they couldn't be further apart, and some "expectations management" is no doubt involved. But neither is there anything to suggest that my central expectation of a no deal Brexit at the end of 2020 will not, in fact, come to pass.

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The wonder of democracy

by Frank Schnittger Sat Feb 22nd, 2020 at 12:08:26 AM EST

There has been a lot of hot and heavy commentary in the Irish media as to who has and has not got the "right" or "responsibility" to form a government following the inconclusive Irish general election result where three parties, Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, got between 25 and 21% of the vote.

Most of this has been legitimate banter between partisan supporters trying to portray their party in the most favourable light and place it in the best position to either lead a government or force the other two parties to break their electoral pledges and form a most uncomfortable coalition government.

The received wisdom is that whichever party ends up leading the opposition will be able to exploit the discomfiture of the coalition parties and clean up at the next election. Few believe Ireland's public health care and housing problems will be solved in the next few years, but that won't prevent the next government from copping the blame when they fail to do so.

But lest the naive be disillusioned by the whole process, I have provided some context in a letter published as their lead letter by the Irish Independent:

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News and Views

 December 2019

by Colman - Dec 11, 506 comments

Your take on this month's news


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