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Flashback: Ireland can only expect “a small number of sporadic cases”, said Tony Holohan

In light of the Irish media’s widespread praise for yesterday’s Sunday Times article outlining the failures of the British Government, it might be worth taking a look at events in a similar timeframe closer to home.

“38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster”, was the headline of the Sunday Times piece. Here’s what was happening in Ireland in the same time frame:

Ireland’s Coronavirus Supremo Tony Holohan, on the 3rd of March, two weeks before Saint Patrick’s day:

Despite the European agency’s upgrading the threat of transmission of the disease in Europe to “moderate to high”, Irish public health officials continue to insist they do not expect this to happen in the State.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he was confident only a “small numbers of sporadic cases” would occur.

Here’s HSE Chief Paul Reid a few days earlier, saying that Ireland had “adequate stock” of protective equipment;

Mr Reid said procuring essential equipment to protect against the virus had been a major challenge for the health service due to “volatility” in the market but adequate stocks were available.

However, the HSE had acted early to buy 700,000 protective gowns, 4 million gloves and 1.5 million surgical masks, he said.

A coronavirus-specific page on the HSE website has attracted 142,000 visits and 725,000 page impressions, he said.

Here’s the HSE again, in late January, saying that the threat to Ireland of Coronavirus was “low”:

“The threat to Ireland from the new flu-like virus that has killed 26 people in China remains low, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

As 14 people tested for the coronavirus in the UK were given the all-clear on Friday – including one patient in the North – the HSE said the likelihood of a case reported in the EU resulting in secondary cases within Ireland was low.

The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said that while there was a “moderate” likelihood of detecting cases imported into EU countries, it was important to note that Ireland had no direct flights to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus originated.”

There’s far more than that, if you want to go and look yourself.

But of course, all of this will be forgotten in the great national myth-making exercise about to get underway in relation to Coronavirus.

In the Irish media’s telling of the story, Ireland acted quickly and decisively, while the United Kingdom dithered and wallowed in a Brexit-induced haze of denial. But none of that is true. The facts speak for themselves. As recently as six weeks ago, the Government was misleading itself, and the public, about the nature of the threat.

The number of cases is not sporadic.

We did not have enough PPE.

The threat was not “low”.

We presently have the tenth worst death rate in the world.

In the United Kingdom, they are at least asking questions about the failure to prepare. No such questions are being asked here – but they should be.

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