Letters to the Editor: Schools must adapt to deal with changes in Covid crisis

INTO leader says we all have a shared responsibility to protect schools and ensure they never have to close again 
Letters to the Editor: Schools must adapt to deal with changes in Covid crisis

The contention that children do not get seriously ill from Covid-19 is inaccurate, and primary teachers and their schools. Picture: iStock

In the midst of a public health crisis, it is vital that public discourse on the dangers of Covid-19 is accurate and evidence-based.

Sinead Barrett’s letter, Teachers don’t want contact tracing back (Irish Examiner, October 29) in which she contends children do not get seriously ill from Covid-19, is inaccurate, as is her contention that primary teachers do not want additional measures to combat the spread and threat of Covid.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) represents more than 50,000 teachers on the island of Ireland. We listen to our members through regular grassroots meetings across the country. The issues we present nationally reflect the majority view.

While the levels of serious illness among young children are lower than in the adult population, Australian data from January to August this year shows 2.5% of under-nines who contracted Covid were hospitalised.

Harvard Medical School also notes that some children have had severe complications due to Covid, with increased risk for those with underlying conditions. 

In Ireland, under-13s accounted for more than 20% of new cases in the past week and there have been cases of children being admitted to hospitals and, on occasion, to ICU.

A study from the University of Liège this month found almost equal levels of infection among primary pupils and their teachers. 

It recommends that testing, contact tracing, and isolation should be strengthened so schools can stay open and children and staff are safe. 

It also recommended the role of schools in virus transmission should be part of national vaccination strategies.

 The World Health Organization has drawn a similar conclusion.

With the surge in infections among primary school pupils, the current approach to dealing with school outbreaks must be reviewed. A no-response strategy is not an option if we are to discharge our duty of care to pupils and teachers.

And we all have a social responsibility to consider their families and the wider community.

Decisions on withdrawing contact tracing, testing, and public health risk-assessments were made at a time when the trajectory of the virus was different. Primary schoolchildren testing positive has increased by nearly 50% in October alone.

With an ever-deteriorating public health landscape, now is the time to once again raise our shield to protect our primary and special schools and ensure they never have to close again.

As we have heard, time and time again throughout this crisis, when the situation changes, we must adapt.

John Boyle

INTO General Secretary

China’s ominous veil over our planet

The recent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report Risk Outlook 2022: 10 scenarios that could impact global growth and inflation cites China specifically in four of the 10 threats: Three pertaining to Chinese relationships with the US, the EU, and Taiwan and the fourth pertaining to a potential property crash in the country.

Chinese fighter jets including PLA J-16s flew close to Taiwan recently in a show of force after the island announced its intention to join a Pacific trade group, which China has also applied to join. Picture: Taiwan Ministry of Defence via AP
Chinese fighter jets including PLA J-16s flew close to Taiwan recently in a show of force after the island announced its intention to join a Pacific trade group, which China has also applied to join. Picture: Taiwan Ministry of Defence via AP

The fact that it is now responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s overall greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to build new coal-fired power stations at more than 60 locations across the country, further deepens its ominous veil over our planet.

It would not only be ironic in the extreme but potentially calamitous if the ‘western world’, due to its continual focus and concentration on the challenges of Covid-19 and climate change, was distracted from challenging China’s forbidding and growing global influence.

Michael Gannon

St Thomas’ Sq

Kilkenny

Veganism the best way to save planet

Many people assume that veganism is just a diet and are surprised when I tell them it’s much more than that. 

In a nutshell (no pun intended), veganism is an ethical commitment not to cause harm to nonhuman animals with whom we share our planet. 

Vegans follow a plant-based diet, omitting animal flesh and secretions such as milk, honey or eggs from their plates. 

We don’t wear leather, fur, or anything else that comes from an animal. 

Strict vegans also reject animal use in other forms (eg, animal experimentation, horse and greyhound racing, and entertainment).

My own journey began 36 years ago when I realised that not only was I incapable of killing an animal myself in order to cook it and eat it, I was no longer willing to contract out the killing to someone else. And so, overnight, I stopped eating animals. 

A few years later, I became vegan.

Apart from not being complicit in the killing of an innocent animal, there are many other reasons to switch to a plant-based diet.

Animal agriculture is responsible for most global deforestation, as land is cleared to grow soy or other crops to feed to farmed animals, or as pastureland for animals farmed by the meat and dairy industry.

Animal agriculture contributes significantly to climate change. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.

A study published in the journal Science in 2018 concluded that a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your personal impact on the planet. 

In 2019 we fed and slaughtered 75bn land animals, although there were only around 7.5bn humans on Earth. 

Today is World Vegan Day. I can’t think of a better day to switch to a plant-based diet.

Gerry Boland

Keadue

Co Roscommon

Use of Covid certs must be in doubt

On foot of the recent study published in  The Lancet Infectious Diseases  Research shows vaccinated as infectious as those without Covid-19 protection (Irish Examiner, October 28), one has to wonder about the logic of and justification of the Covid cert.

Now that we know vaccinated people are just as infectious as unvaccinated people, the continued use — and indeed extended use — of the Covid cert must be called into question.

Simon O’Connor

Ennis

Co Clare

Consent conundrum

Lucy Collins — Consent must become part of sex education (Irish Examiner, Letters, October 30) opines that consent “must become part of a mandatory and compulsory programme that needs to be made part of the SPHE course from third year up".

One might quibble about the illogicality of a programme about consent being mandatory but the real problems don’t lie therein.

Consent to anything, at any time, is a multi-faceted, problematic issue and one that would probably require the services of a counsellor, solicitor, barrister, and film photographer.

Once the services of all these have been utilised to the optimum, then one has probably consented to whatever may then ensue. 

At least, one will have a contract signed, a solicitor to ensure that all the protocols have been followed and a film of the proceedings.

What more could one want?

Aileen Hooper

Stoneybatter

Dublin 7

The origin of ‘Man’

In For peat’s sake, don’t turf out thousands of years of heritage (Irish Examiner, October 27) Clodagh Finn stated that Croghan Man was discovered in County Meath. 

This is incorrect. He was discovered near Croghan Hill, Co Offaly — as his name suggests.

Andrew Kirwan

Rhode

Co Offaly

Facebook rebrands to immersive Meta

Mark Zuckerberg has rebranded Facebook as Meta — but it's unlikely to make the platform smell any sweeter.
Mark Zuckerberg has rebranded Facebook as Meta — but it's unlikely to make the platform smell any sweeter.

What does the rebadging of Facebook as Meta mean? Mark Zuckerberg has published a Founders letter and some of the ideas raised are worrying.

There has already been enough discussion of the way Facebook works, and the concerns that people have with it, and like many people I had a short experience with it and decided that I wanted to live in the real world where no one cared what I was doing or kept much data on me.

The letter states: “The next platform will be even more immersive” which, for me as an ex-teacher, is concerning given how often students were already immersed in Facebook and other social media, even during class time.

The promise of being able to “get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create” online is the exact opposite of what I want to do having come out of lockdown. 

As in Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Romeo and Juliet: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” — and it is unlikely Meta will smell any better.

Dennis Fitzgerald

Melbourne

Australia

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