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How on earth do 25% think the “worst of covid” is happening now?

95% of Irish people are vaccinated. In terms of death rate, the coronavirus is presently fully 96% less lethal than it was in the first wave, back in 2020. The death rate is a fraction of what was originally feared. Life has returned to normal in much of the world, outside this island. And yet according to a poll by a reputable pollster carried out this week…. only four in ten voters are willing to say that the worst is behind us?

To say that the “worst of covid is happening now” isn’t just a bad, wrong opinion. It’s actually a flat-out denial of reality. The fact is that during the initial wave, elderly people in nursing homes were dying in their thousands. Today….. we have hospitals approaching their usual flu season levels of capacity, and a daily death rate in the single figures.

Even stipulating that the Irish media has been uniquely terrible and alarmist, one cannot say that they have said anything that would lead a reasonable person, in possession of basically any of the facts, to conclude that the present wave is worse than what came before. And of course, there’s another fifth of the electorate who, inexplicably, believe that there is worse to come.

Is there worse to come? Almost certainly not.

It is possible, of course, that that fifth of the electorate is basing its view on the grave national trauma that last year’s post-christmas wave of cases became. Perhaps they’re the people who look at people living normally, and congregating in groups, and assume that doom will fall from the heavens as a result of people “losing the run of themselves”. Even so, with mass vaccination, and growing numbers of people who have recovered from the virus, there is absolutely no reason to believe that a winter wave in 2021/2 will be anything like as deadly as the winter wave in 2020/1.

What we’re seeing here, in plain English, is a population that has been led by the nose to a place where it has lost all perspective on the world inside, or outside, of Ireland’s borders. We can only speculate on the reasons why.

Intuitively, though, major blame must be placed at the feet of the Irish media on one count: The relentless, hysterical focus on case numbers to the exclusion of all else. The average person cannot be expected to realise that a covid case in 2021 is not the same thing as a covid case in 2020. In 2020, with a much more lethal strain of the virus doing the rounds, the prognosis for an individual case of covid 19 was significantly worse than it is today. At the very beginning of the pandemic, 30 or 40 new cases was legitimately viewed as a disaster.

But if those 30 or 40 new cases were a disaster, how then does the average person figure out that in 2021, 3,000 or 4,000 cases is…. not much to be worried about?

We are using the same frames, to present data, as we were at the very beginning. In truth, the much more important statistics are hospitalisation, ICU, and death rates. These are presented, but almost always without context. Much of the public are still focused on cases, as if cases are the problem.

The second issue is the nature of the coverage of the pandemic globally. The UK, for example, has featured in the Irish media only, and exclusively, when things are going badly there. This is also true of almost every other country: When cases are low, they do not make the news. When cases surge, we hear that there is a crisis. This feeds the notion that there is a relationship between restrictions and cases, which simply is not strictly true.

For example, how many ordinary Irish people know that the UK, with no restrictions of any kind, has about the same number of cases as Ireland, where there is full scale panic?

My guess (because this has not been polled, we cannot say for certain) is that this fact is not well known.

Whatever the root causes may be, and those are just two educated guesses, the public hysteria about covid is objectively a much bigger threat to the long term security and prosperity of the state than covid itself. We have heard a lot, in the last year, about “misinformation”, and how the media has a role to play in combatting it. In the name of combatting misinformation, Ireland’s establishment has censored, hectored, and urged social media bans for people who have taken a dissenting view on the covid strategy. And yet, on this question, the Irish public are objectively, and indisputably, misinformed on a massive scale.

So who combats the misinformation, when it comes from the media itself?

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