Poor old ISAG.
The Zero Covid campaign has somewhat stalled out. After 18 months of constantly getting on the airwaves to demand more lockdown, harder lockdown, and total lockdown, that campaign, and its credibility, has somewhat stalled out. Yes, Ireland still lags well behind the rest of the world in terms of opening up (see Croke Park, then look at Old Trafford), and has some absurd restrictions still in place, like the restrictions on music events. But, by and large, things are slowly headed back to normal.
Which poses a bit of a problem, if you are a Covid scaremonger used to regular outings on the media. You can’t just go on and rail against the ending of the restrictions. There is an audience for that, to be sure, but it is getting smaller by the day. You need something new. And so, here we are:
Face masks should be required for primary school pupils when they return to class, according to the Independent Scientific Advisory Group.
So far, only secondary school students have been required to wear face coverings in school.
Health officials have previously advised against requiring face masks for younger children – citing concerns such as the impact on the development of their communication and language skills.
However, ISAG suggests mass COVID-19 infection of unvaccinated children will occur if action isn’t taken – particularly with the Delta variant now dominant in Ireland.
They say “properly fitting FFP2 [filtering facepiece] masks should be worn by all children and supplied by the Department of Education”.
As well as mask-wearing, they’re calling for other measures such as permanent CO2 monitors in every classroom and improved ventilation practices.
They say such risk-mitigation measures can be achieved at a modest cost, especially compared to the cost of a child experiencing long COVID or other serious impacts from the virus.
That last line, of course, is pure, unadulterated scaremongering. Don’t take it from me: Take it from RTE, who reported a Lancet Study last week which found that “long covid” is remarkably uncommon in children: Fewer than 2% of children report Covid symptoms lasting longer than 8 weeks.
By contrast, we know that facemasks on children can do real harms. Again, do not take it from me: Experts have studied this, and found that masks inhibit learning and development. Indeed, our own Department of Health chimed in on this last March, and said that masks “may exacerbate anxiety or breathing difficulties for some students.”
So, this is real harm on one hand, versus virtually no benefit on the other. Well: Some benefit. It got ISAG onto the radio, after all.
The bottom line here is that the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group is independent, and an advocacy group. But it is in no way scientific. From the very beginning of the Covid pandemic, they have served as entirely self-appointed chicken littles, whose sole public function has not been to provide any scientific insight, but to provide doom-mongering takes for radio and television programmes hungry for exactly that.
They will, it need not be said, take no responsibility to any long term harm done to a child’s health or social development by facemasks. Indeed, if you listen to the Newstalk interview linked above, you’ll find very little scientific rationale at all. It is almost entirely political: “we need to be careful and cautious”. That is not science. It is fear.
Here are the facts:
Covid is not dangerous for young children. At all. If you are masking a child, you are not doing it to save their life, but to protect adults. Most of whom have been vaccinated, including their teachers. Many cloth masks are ineffective at stopping covid anyway. Children, especially the younger they get, are bad at keeping their masks clean. Even some adults are bad at keeping their masks clean. When masks get dirty, they may spread more disease than they prevent.
All of this is common sense, reinforced by science. In other words, it is the complete opposite of anything that the Zero Covid campaign has produced since it was, lamentably, founded.