The Rotary Club, Dublin
Founded 22nd February 1911
All the news that's fit to print
President: Mariandy Lennon
Hon. Sec.: Tony Keegan
Telephone 087 244 2818
Volume 26 Issue 40
15 June 2020
Today‘s speaker is our own Derek Bryne who whose topic is Reflections of a Speaker Convenor.
(Derek will be stepping down from this role at the end of June).
Last week President Mariandy chaired our 9th virtual meeting. Mariandy said that the world had been shocked by the death of George Floyd. In a better world, we would not judge anybody by their skin colour. She asked that we have a minute’s silence in his memory and for peace and solidarity in the world.
Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Jun 22nd Phil Godfrey, Solihull Rotary Club, UK. Antiphospholipid Syndrome.
Jun 29th Club Assembly.
Jul 6th Presidential handover.
Jul 13th Li Yan. China in the early days of Covid-19.
Rotary Rangers Walks
Jun 16th Prince Williams Seat, Curtlestown Woods car park, Glencree Valley.
Jun 23rd Sugar Loaf, Kilmacanogue.
Jun 30th Greystones to Kilcoole.
Social distancing rules will apply. More details are available from PP Brian George.
At last week’s virtual meeting there were 26 attendees.
There were four virtual visitors, announced by Dermot Knight. Two were visiting Rotarians, Tracy Tabear from the Evanston Noon club and Bill Honeywell from the Clitheroe club in Lancashire. There were two non-Rotarian visitors, Helena Lafleche, daughter of president Mariandy, who joined us from London and Hechem Charifi who joined us from Dublin and was introduced by Rosella as a work colleague. Invited by Mariandy to say a few words, Tracy said that she was president elect of her club and was joining virtual meetings around the world to see how other clubs were operating during the pandemic. Bill said that he was likewise visiting other clubs virtually to learn what they did. Helena said that she was expecting a baby any minute (she had had a false alarm the previous evening) but hoped to make it through the meeting! Hechem spoke at length about his move from Paris to Dublin with his family. He works in banking, but is also a professor at one of the universities in Paris. He is now settled in Dublin and is interesting in helping deprived children.
Hon. Secretary Tony presented apologies from PP Tony Gannon, PP Ken Hunt, Brian Taylor, PP Randal Gray, Rana AlDamin, David Horkan and Kenneth Carroll.
President Mariandy said that now that the Feed the Heroes project was winding down, the club was looking for another way in which we could contribute to the relief of those affected by Covid-19. Delma has had some contact with Focus Ireland about families that are suffering from food insecurity. This might be a good project for us to pursue.
Mariandy also said that the winning prize in the raffle, dinner with the German ambassador, had been postponed until 13th or 20th of July. She would be in contact with the winners nearer the time when the date was confirmed.
She reminded us about the Rotary International virtual conference later this month. You need to register to join this on-line. Details are on the RI website.
Responding to the comments by Tracy and Bill, Mariandy described a few features of our club including the various interest subgroups. These include the book club, the hill walkers, a wellness group, a history group and a ballroom dancing group. Members who have a particular interest are encouraged to form a group within the club to increase fellowship.
Members wishing to speak
PP Ted said that he had, as advertised, addressed the Rotary Club of Lake Mary in Florida. He had talked about the history of our club and the various activities in which we were engaged. He felt that the audience had been impressed with his description and they sent greetings to our club.
Last week’s speaker
Our speaker last week was our own member Udo Reulbach who talked about his experience both from his perspective as a child & adolescent psychiatrist and as an epidemiologist, of the Covid-19 crisis. Udo works for the HSE which, he explained for the benefit of our visitors, is approximately the equivalent of the NHS in the UK. Udo wanted to talk about three things – the disease itself, dealing with it on the frontline and the challenge from here on.
Covid-19 is not the 19th version of this virus (it is the 7th). The number 19 refers to the year (2019) that it was discovered. It is almost certain it that crossed to humans from some animal species. This means that the human body had no prior defences against it and as a result it hit our species like a hammer. Udo showed us a series of graphs illustrating the spread, pattern and current state of the disease. The epicentre of the disease has changed. For a long time it was in Italy and France. To date there have been about seven million cases recorded, but experts believe that the real number of cases is probably between 10 and 50 times this figure. In terms of deaths per 100,000 population, Ireland has not done particularly well (see graph), but comparisons are difficult as the quality and nature of data collection and reporting varies widely. So far we have recorded over 25,200 cases in Ireland, but, again, the real number is probably about 10 times this. The good news is that the numbers are going down. In Ireland the number of new cases and deaths are both dropping towards zero.
Turning to the front line, Udo said that we should draw inspiration from Albert Camus, (the French writer who wrote La Peste (The Plague)). Camus said that fighting a virus was not like fighting a war against terrorism or an external enemy, but about what Camus called using common decency. All this talk about wars and heroes is, in Udo’s view, a distraction. What matters is that people show both common decency and change their behaviour in a way that protects not just themselves, but others. This has meant and will mean transformative change in many areas including his own field where processes, procedures and whole systems have had to be re-thought. Technology is being deployed in new ways. For example, the idea of using remote, video consultation took a while to get used to and not everybody likes it, but for many medical problems it works fine. Face-to-face consultation and examination is still needed for certain patients and conditions, but teleconsulting reduces risk and can and should be used where possible (Aside: I have used this for an eye problem, sending photos to my GP who was able to diagnose the problem and prescribe an ointment for it and send the prescription directly to my local pharmacy - Duty Editor).
Turning to PPE, Udo said that he was concerned about the faith being placed in masks as a way to solve many of the problems caused by this virus. He is not against masks, they can be valuable when used correctly and in the right context, particularly preventing for those who may have the virus from spreading it to others. However, masks themselves also create risks. Then need to be put on and taken off correctly. They should not never be touched once on, but people tend to do so because they are unfamiliar with them and keep adjusting them. In practice, social distancing and good hand hygiene combined with keeping your hands away from your face is what matters most. Masks are particularly useful for protection in confined environments and where social distancing is not possible.
There is still a lot that we do not know about Covid-19 and many questions about it that we still cannot answer. The value of masks remains uncertain. We need more time to evaluate the risks. In the meantime, understandably, many people are frightened. Udo specialises in child psychology and children are particularly prone to being terrified of the unknown. Part of his job is to contain such fears and reassure. Some people are much more prone to anxiety than others and it is hard to foretell how people will react. We need to allow that others may not be as relatively relaxed about the risks as we may be.
Udo himself had not had a day off work since January (by his own choice), but he believes he is privileged. He has a job and it is well paid and secure. Many others are out of work. It is important that we all stay in contact with our friends, our neighbours and our colleagues. Call them. Ask them if they are OK. And above all listen to them. Sharing our anxieties with others helps to reduce them.
Summarising Udo said that the two most important things were distance and hygiene. If you are wearing a mask, learn how to put it on and do not touch it with your hands again until you take it off. Then dispose of it. Never adjust a mask once you have put it on. If you do you risk infecting yourself. Above all, do not let wearing a mask lure you into a false sense of security. However, if distancing is not possible, for example on an aircraft or a train, then a mask should be worn. And finally, always remember the importance of basic decency and that the lives of humans come before economics.
President Mariandy then opened the floor to what turned into a lively Q&A session.
PE Alan Davidson got the ball rolling commenting that in Malahide, where he lives, when you go into the centre of the village these days, social distancing seemed to have gone to pot. People were walking four abreast on the pavement and would not get out of the way to let you pass them at a safe distance. Frank Bannister suggested a simple solution to this was to start coughing loudly as you approached them – it was amazing how quickly your path would clear.
PP Paul Martin made two observations about poor communications by the powers-that-be. First, it was not made clear that there was no charge for the Covid-19 test and secondly the word ‘asymptomatic’ was not familiar to many people. He also wondered why the advice was not to stay too close for more than 15 minutes when the virus could jump in a few seconds. Responding to this, Udo said that all of these things were somewhat arbitrary. Two metres versus 1.9 metres; 15 minutes versus 10 minutes. It was all a matter of probabilities. There was no magic (close) distance beyond which you were safe (obviously you would be safe at a couple of hundred metres – Ed.). Frank Bannister backed up what both Alan and Udo were saying noting that in Donnybrook and Ranelagh he had observed a noticeable decline in attention to social distance when he was out walking. He hoped we would not all be paying for this in September.
Mariandy said that she wears a mask while out shopping and throws it into the laundry as soon as she gets home. Udo said that out of doors the risk of transmission is very low. Covid-19 does not survive long in sunlight. He reiterated that he is not against masks, only in favour of their being used properly and appropriately.
Kevin McAnallan wondered about the second wave of the pandemic being reported in Iran. Is this a harbinger of things to come elsewhere? Udo said that there were questions about the Iranian data and this might just be a continuation of the first wave rather than a distinct second wave.
Frank Bannister noted that the Brazilian government had decided that it was not going to publish any Coivd-19 data and had removed the existing data from its web site. This was a novel way to keep the mortality figures low.
Jono Pim wondered whether the main risks from flying were on long haul. There is a big difference in risk between being on a Ryanair trip to Spain and a flight from London to Hong Kong. Udo said that clearly the risk increases with the duration of the flight, but in general his advice was unless you need to fly, don’t. Even the highest-grade medical masks were not 100% safe. President Mariandy wondered if there was a particular type of mask that one should use when flying. She had to do some flying and would be flying to the UK to see her new grandchild. Udo said that the best masks were to N95 standard. Kevin McAnallan (who, many members may not be aware, is an expert in air filtration systems) said that the filtration systems on modern aircraft were highly efficient.
Rosella remarked on the situations in Italy and Serbia where wearing a mask is now regarded as a duty to other people. In Italy you cannot go into a supermarket unless you are wearing a mask.
Delma returned to the topic of air on aircraft and said that she had read that different planes had different systems for filtration and for new air as opposed to recycled air. Kevin McAnallan responded saying that it was often said that the air on an aircraft was constantly re-circulated and this is mostly true as there is very little air at 35,000 feet (although some oxygen might be taken in and added). The filtration systems used on today’s aircraft were designed in the 1960s, so they would be in all but the very oldest planes and certainly would be standard in any modern fleet. They are highly efficient at removing pathogens. The main infection risks in flying are getting on and off the aircraft and in the airports. When in an aircraft, you should always leave the airflow system over your head on to ensure a steady flow of clean air.
PE Alan noted that this was a somewhat gloomy discussion and wondered if some of these aircraft would even get airborne. He had booked a flight to Scotland for several weeks away and it had just been cancelled. Kevin, who wants to get back from his home in Cyprus, said that while Ryanair had plans to fly there, Cyprus had yet to permit aircraft from Ireland to land in the country.
Frank Bannister said that he was bemused by the ever-lengthening list of risk increasing or decreasing factors that were popping up in the media. Apparently your risk is higher is you have type A blood, are bald or are obese. They are lower if you have type O blood, a full head of hair, eat a lot of spinach, had the BCG as a child or if you survived the 1918 flu epidemic. He wondered if being left-handed increased or decreased the risk. PE Alan said that Frank had omitted a stiff single malt from his list of contributors to risk reduction.
Wrapping up, President Mariandy thanked Udo and all of the medical workers who were fighting the virus.
She said that four members had met up the previous week for an open-air session at the Sandymount Hotel (formerly the Mount Herbert) where there was space to socially distance. The only offering is coffee, but that was fine. She is hoping to organise more such events for people who live near the hotel.
Two final comments came from the screen as it were.
The first was from PP Ted who said that he had been reading RIBI’s Rotary Magazine and seen short notes about the Newbridge and Tullamore clubs therein. He wondered if somebody could write a similar note for the magazine about our club’s actions to help fight Covid-19
Finally, Mariandy invited our visitor, PE Tracy to tell us a little about her club which is based in Evanston, Illinois where the RI headquarters is based. Tracy said that for many years her club had met in a care home, but when this became temporarily unavailable due to a major refurbishment, they had moved their luncheon meeting to the Rotary head office. Recently, their original venue had become available again, but the members had decided that they liked their new home so much that they wanted to stay there. RI agreed, so they now meet there every week.