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Irish health official, denounced for criticizing COVID policy, cites U.S. studies to support views

Ireland's experience with COVID-19 mirrors that of New York, wrote Dr. Martin Feeley, who resigned from his government health post amid a furor over his comments.

Published: September 27, 2020 1:02pm

Updated: September 27, 2020 1:38pm

A top Irish medical official who resigned amid a furor over his comments challenging "draconian" COVID-19 restrictions has doubled down on his position, citing U.S. statistics to support his views.

The official, Dr. Martin Feeley, on Sept. 12 said that his government could not justify continued lockdowns in light of what has emerged about COVID-19 infections and morbidity. The virus has turned out to be “much less severe” than the average annual flu, and lockdowns are hurting young people and the national economy, Feeley told the Irish Times. When Dublin health officers denounced those comments, Feeley resigned his post as clinical director of Ireland's Midland Fields Hospital Group, a division of the government-run Health Service Executive. 

Feeley last week reiterated his views, and expanded on them, bolstering his position with American studies and statistics.

"It is not for want of good reason that deaths are now referred to as Covid-19-associated deaths," Feeley wrote on Thursday in the Irish Times. "Of 5,700 patients admitted to New York hospitals, 88 per cent had more than one underlying condition (co-morbidity) and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported that from January to May, 19.5 per cent of Covid-19 patients with co-morbidity died compared to 1.6 per cent with no other illness."

Noting that the Irish experience mirrors that of New York, Feeley also cited a study out of California. 

"A Stanford-led group analysed over 100,000 Covid-19-related deaths in Europe, including Ireland, and the US and concluded that 'deaths for people under 65 without predisposing conditions were remarkably uncommon,' " Feeley wrote.

Infections aboard two American ships - one civilian, one military - showed that many cases of Covid-19 are so mild as to show no symptoms, Feeley wrote.

"In extremely well-defined scenarios such as the Diamond Princess cruise liner and the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier almost 66 per cent of the positive tests were completely asymptomatic, while a report from China suggests 78 per cent of cases were asymptomatic," he wrote.

The 70-year-old Feeley is known within Ireland for supporting the herd immunity approach to managing the coronavirus. He has said that young people are the least vulnerable members of society, and should be allowed to live their lives without being locked down.

The initial response to Covid-19 was appropriate at first, when it was suspected of being as contagious as the Spanish flu of 1917, Feeley wrote. 

"However, after nine months of intensive scientific scrutiny of the virus’ behaviour globally concludes this is no longer the case."

Neither Feeley nor a representative of the Health Service Executive immediately could be reached for comment.


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