Credit: D Storan

Top 7 worst Irish expert predictions about Covid

In light of the media’s focus on people spreading false information about Covid-19, here are the top 7 worst predictions and least accurate statements made by NPHET and other experts throughout the pandemic.

1. LUKE O’NEILL: THE VACCINES ARE “ALL 100% EFFECTIVE IN PREVENTING HOSPITALISATIONS AND DEATH”

Earlier this year, Trinity College immunologist Luke O’Neill asserted that the main vaccines were “all 100% effective in preventing hospitalisations and death.”

He made this claim on numerous occasions throughout the months of January and February 2021.

We now know this to be incorrect. While current evidence suggests that vaccines certainly reduce one’s risk of hospitalisation and death, the jabs are nowhere near “100% effective,” and vaccinated people can absolutely be hospitalised and die from Covid-19.

Currently in Irish hospitals, 48% of Covid patients in ICU are vaccinated. While this still means vaccinated people are proportionally much less likely to get severely ill with Covid (as they represent around 90% of the population), O’Neill’s assertion that the jab is “100% effective” is simply false.

Additionally, as NPHET Modelling Chair Professor Philip Nolan said just a few weeks ago in late October:

“…vaccination greatly reduces the risk of dying from this virus, but it doesn’t eliminate the risk. It sadly does mean that, with very large levels of circulating virus, some older people will become infected and a very small number of those people will die.”

Notably, despite this error, a Twitter fact check appears nowhere on O’Neill’s posts.

2. SAM MCCONKEY: 80K-120K IRISH PEOPLE COULD DIE OF COVID

On the 8th of March 2020, four days before the first lockdown, Professor Sam McConkey took to RTÉ Radio 1’s airwaves to say that 80,000 to 120,000 Irish people could die from Covid-19, and that the disaster would be as bad as the “Spanish Flu, the Civil War & 1929 Stock Market Crash” rolled into one.

The next day both Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach and Health Minister Simon Harris both cited this figure, saying they took it seriously. It’s reasonable to assume that this apocalyptic claim was the main catalyst for the first lockdown (and arguably, indirectly, every lockdown after it).

We now know these numbers were never credible, even if Ireland hadn’t locked down.

For scale, Sweden did not lockdown their country at all and applied minimal mandatory restrictions for the entire pandemic.

Ultimately, they ranked around 13th out of 31 European countries for least Covid-deaths – more or less in the middle of the pack, and beating out countries which had intense lockdowns like the UK and Spain.

If Ireland had not locked down and had the Swedish Covid death rate (1469.87 per million), we would have had around 7,364 deaths – nowhere even remotely close to the 80,000 to 120,000 McConkey warned about. He was off by a factor of more than 10.

The country with the highest Covid death rate in Europe is Bulgaria, with a death rate of 3495.98 deaths per million.

Even with the highest death rate in Europe extrapolated to the population of the Republic of Ireland, this would leave us with around 17,514 deaths – very high, but still nowhere near 80,000, let alone 120,000. McConkey’s numbers were simply way off, even if we had experienced the absolute worst-case nightmare scenario and were the #1 most deadly country in Europe for Covid.

3. LUKE O’NEILL: “THERE’S NO EVIDENCE FACE MASKS WILL PROTECT YOU AT ALL”

On Friday the 28th of February 2020, while speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ One’s Late Late Show, Luke O’Neill went to great lengths to insist that, quote: “[If you’re not infected] there’s no evidence that wearing a face mask will protect you at all.”

“If you don’t have this [virus], there’s no need to wear a face mask – absolutely not.”

“At all?” asked Tubridy.

“At all,” O’Neill replied flatly.

Since then O’Neill has totally changed his tune, telling people to “wear an effing mask.”

He even insists that young children should be made to wear masks in schools.

4. MCCONKEY AND REID: MILLIONS OF IRISH PEOPLE COULD GET COVID

Sam McConkey, as well as projecting that up to 120,000 Irish people could die, also predicted that as much as 80% of the Irish population – 4 million people – could catch the virus.

More optimistically, HSE chief Paul Reid claimed that just under 2 million people could contract the virus.

However, if you take the case rate for no-lockdown Sweden, which had Europe’s highest cases per capita, and apply it to the Irish population, you get around 571,000 – nowhere remotely close to the projections of Reid or McConkey.

5. NPHET: OVER 2,000 COULD DIE BETWEEN JULY AND SEPTEMBER 2021

When moving to re-open the country around June 28th 2021, after we had already administered 3 million vaccine doses, CMO Dr. Tony Holohan wrote a letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly predicting that, pessimistically, a fourth wave of Covid could kill over 2,000 people by September.

In NPHET’s two most likely scenarios they predicted that between 545 and 1,230 people could die.

From the date he said that to September 1st, 116 people died – vastly less than NPHET had claimed, and even less than their most optimistic projection.

6. NPHET’S PHILIP NOLAN: WE’RE “CLOSE TO SUPPRESSING” THE VIRUS

On October 5th 2021, NPHET’s Professor Philip Nolan said that Ireland was coming “close to suppressing” the virus, and that we were on track to lift all remaining Covid-19 restrictions by October 22nd as had been originally planned.

About one week later, NPHET were already becoming “concerned” with the Covid situation in the country, and a week after that they advised the government not to lift restrictions after all.

7. NPHET: CASES COULD RISE TO 7,000 A DAY IN JULY

In May of 2021, NPHET models predicted that Covid-19 cases could rise to 7,000 a day in July if there was a significant increase in social contacts.

In reality, during the absolute peak in July, when cases were at their highest that month, they never exceeded more than around 1,300 – vastly less than NPHET’s projections.


Now look – I don’t blame academics for getting it wrong. Lots of people got it wrong, and it’s easy to make mistakes when dealing with a new disease we’ve never seen before. We don’t expect the authorities to be infallible or omniscient, and maybe these were honest, sincere assessments made based on the best evidence available at the time.

But the issue is not simply that they got it wrong – it’s that they got it drastically wrong, catastrophically so, and yet the credibility of the expert classes is not dented in any way. Our academics are still on the radio and the television every day it feels like, and their word is treated as gospel truth by the powers that be despite major mistakes in the past.

Some will say “ah, but sure, you’re only focusing on their mistakes – what about what they got right?” But when you think of an expert, you think of a person who’s going to steer you right more often than not. If you had an advisor where 50% of his advice was correct and the other 50% was completely wrong, that’s about as useful as flipping a coin. You may as well buy a Magic 8 Ball at that stage.

The next time an expert tells us to totally up-end our society over some model or theory they have, maybe we should think twice before throwing caution to the wind. Just a bit of food for thought.

 

 

 

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