Thursday, 25 November 2021

With the nation's health again in peril, now is not the time for misplaced deference to Nphet

My piece in today's Indo👇

 https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/with-the-nations-health-in-peril-now-is-not-the-time-for-misplaced-deference-to-nphet-41086873.html

"Public health measures underpinned by flawed modelling has brought us to the brink of yet another preventable lockdown. The louder the scientists clamour for ventilation mitigations such as HEPA air purifiers and upgrading masks to N95/FFP2, the more Tony Holohan doubles down on “wash your hands”, despite evidence showing the risk of transmission from surfaces is low.

With the nation’s health again in peril, now is not the time for misplaced deference. The country’s Chief Medical Officer should be accountable for his dogged denial of the scientific consensus within the WHO, ECDC and others, that: children can catch and spread Covid as effectively as adults, Covid is an airborne disease, asymptomatic transmission is common and Long-Covid exists which can cause multi-organ damage".

...."It’s not too late for Dr Holohan to take responsibility instead of blaming individuals for NPHET’s doomed deployment of hand sanitiser as our primary defence against a deadly airborne disease".

Covid safe Halloween party mentioned in article👇

Pre-Covid, my kids' Halloween parties were legendary. The whole neighborhood was 'round our house. This year, with Covid rampant in the community & health care professionals on their knees with exhaustion, I had 3 & made sure they a) were all safe & b) had great craic. Mission was accomplished 👻💀

Masked up for indoor horror filim in conservatory: windows open either end for cross breeze, Hepa air purifier in shot & blankets provided for extra snugness 😎

"Den of doom" (ramshackle doorless polytunnel) for unmasked hijinks & eating (all kids fully vaccinated 👍)










Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Top 4 nature walk encounters this week...& 1 burnt pie

Always been a walker. Taking a crappy camera along for the ride gets me out of my head & focused on the beauty around me 👇

Here's looking at you kid!


The Burren & the deep blue sea

Winter's closing in


Blackberries still ripe for the picking last week (technically not this week...) 


Baked blackberry & apple pie. Not bake off standards but went down well with steaming hot custard & a cuppa tea 👍




Get outside & out of your head for 10 minutes. See if you can find something(s) that makes you smile. Go on, go on, go on! 💓


Thursday, 28 October 2021

Lure of lobbyists & Martin's failure to follow science puts nation's health at risk

My article in today's Indo👇

 https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/lure-of-lobbyists-and-martins-failure-to-follow-science-puts-nations-health-at-risk-40991353.html

Snippets from long unedited version:

...."Ireland’s adoption of the UK’s “Living with Covid”/survival of the fittest non-strategy is the antithesis of science and doesn’t bear scrutiny.

For example, last week Nphet’s modelling lead, physiologist professor Nolan, claimed “All international evidence says children transmit much less than adults”. What evidence? The international scientific evidence, endorsed by the WHO and ECDC is incontrovertible: Children both catch and transmit Covid and even asymptomatic children may develop Long-Covid which can be debilitating.

This month, the Journal of American Medical Association published research on the role of primary school children in the transmission of Covid and found that, where mitigations weren’t in place, they not only spread Covid more efficiently than adults, they’re the main drivers in the pandemic. Most transmission occurred between teachers and children within the school, with spill-over into their households.

Nphet’s denial of the international evidence led to flawed school guidance which served to fuel the flames of rising cases. Within weeks of re-opening, there were 200 outbreaks in Irish schools, overwhelming the test and trace system. Rather than introduce face masks for primary school children and isolate the whole class to break chains of transmission, as our European neighbours do, Micheál Martin stopped testing.

Removing testing of close contacts in schools is akin to removing the batteries from a smoke alarm. It doesn’t stop the fire, it just prevents it being detected until the building is engulfed in flames. Which is what happened in at least two schools this month alone.

With 35% of students absent due to Covid, the CBS Primary School Board of Management was forced to move learning online. Principal Vicky Barron described serious flaws in the HSE guidance regarding protecting children in schools. She raised concerns that Co2 monitors are inadequate in overcrowded classrooms with poor ventilation where opening windows is insufficient to reduce CO2 levels. Principals like Vicky Barron who put safeguarding staff and children first, are being failed, not just by government, but by opposition politicians (with the exception of the Social Democrats) and their unions.

Micheál Martin has form when it comes to science denial. Last December, he dismissed Ireland’s Independent Scientific Advisory Group’s (ISAG) and Nphet’s warnings against easing restrictions but the voices of industry prevailed. Within weeks, Ireland ranked worst in the world as Covid incidence and deaths sky-rocketed. Prolonged school closures and lockdown ensued.

In January, ISAG urged the government to impose mandatory hotel quarantine to prevent the importation of new vaccine escaping variants, something honorary epidemiologist professor Michael O-fecking-Leary objected to. Winging it on NewsTalk in July, he predicted the “variant scariant” would be proved bogus because, “Delta would not result in increased hospitalisations, serious illness and death”. Disinformation. Is. Dangerous.

In October, there were almost twice as many recorded deaths as the same time last year when we didn’t have vaccines, 10 hospitals are on Code Red, there’s zero paediatric ICU beds and 910,000 on hospital waiting lists. And nightclubs/super-spreader events have re-opened. What could possibly go wrong. Covid is an airborne disease so why wasn’t re-opening of indoor venues contingent on installing HEPA filtration and visible CO2 monitors? 

Yesterday, a man conscientiously sanitised his trolley handle and hands outside SuperValu before sauntering in with his mask under his nose.

Gabriel Scally, president of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Epidemiology and Public Health, calls this “hygiene theatre” and says it does little to reduce the spread of Covid. Scally warns of the urgent need to explain that Covid spreads through the air. “It’s much more important to have fresh and purified air in schools than to have surfaces sterilised. If it was coming through our water supply we’d take action, and we should be taking action with our air supplies.”

Numerous countries have installed HEPA filtration is schools. In New York City, the ventilation status of every classroom is published on a website, and classrooms must have at least two functioning methods of ventilation. Belgium is mandating that all public buildings display their CO2 levels.

Nphet’s expert advisory group, made recommendations for safe indoor air standards in February which weren’t adopted by government. Assistant Professor Orla Hegarty was a member of the committee. She advises that the safe recommended levels of CO2 should not exceed 800ppm and that plug in HEPA filtration systems (no ions, plasma or ozone), coupled with mask wearing by school children of all ages, would reduce the risk of pupils contracting Covid by 90pc.

Why have these inexpensive safeguards not been implemented? Where are the sheltered outdoor areas for children to have lunch? Where is the political will to protect citizens and end this pandemic?

“Living with Covid” means accepting that around 2,000 people a year will die from a preventable disease (compared to 150 road deaths deemed unacceptable), that it’s fine for children to become infected and potentially suffer multi-organ failure, that our vulnerable will be shielding indefinitely and our beleaguered health service, followed by the economy, will collapse.

That’s not science, that’s really bad politics. Irish citizens did not consent to that.

Friday, 8 October 2021

"The waiter gestured at my breastfeeding baby as though he was an unexploded bomb and told me to cover up or leave"

This in support of  Ireland's national breastfeeding week👇

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/the-waiter-gestured-at-my-breastfeeding-baby-as-though-he-was-an-unexploded-bomb-and-told-me-cover-up-or-leave-40928299.html

Extract:

With only 6% of Irish babies exclusively breastfed to six months, Ireland is a world breastfeeding laggard. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef, breast is best, yet only 40% of infants are fed exclusively with breastmilk for the first six months of their life.

 Why does that matter? Because babies are being deprived of proven health benefits of breastfeeding, including reduced risk of asthma, sudden infant death syndrome, obesity, diabetes, infections and food allergies. Mothers benefit from a reduced risk of breast cancer and heart disease. An estimated 800,000 infant deaths and 20,000 maternal deaths would be avoided, according to a report in The Lancet, if WHO-recommended breastfeeding practices were universally implemented.

 As a first time mam mourning the loss of my own mother, breastfeeding saved me from Post Natal Depression. The release of Oxytocin (also known as the “love hormone”) during breastfeeding felt like a shot of Valium coursing through my bloodstream, acting like a natural sedative. A recent US study showed that postpartum depression is a significant health issue and found that women who were breastfeeding at the time of data collection had a significantly lower risk of postpartum depression than women who were not.

On Monday, in support of National Breastfeeding week, President Higgins described the “commodification of child feeding” by largely unregulated organisations that deploy vast funds in the “abuse of advertising” and lobbying. The infant formula market is a €60bn a year industry. Subsidised by taxpayers, Ireland produces 13% of the global supply of formula, worth over a billion euro a year. President Higgins passionately urged government to promote and protect breastfeeding as the most natural and sustainable food source.


Wednesday, 22 September 2021

IOM Elections: It's time to put the women who know what they're doing in charge

 “Do you want to speak to the man in charge or the woman who knows what’s going on?” As global pandemic responses unfolded, it became apparent that female led countries fared best. As a result of Jacinda Ardern’s elimination strategy, New Zealand recorded less deaths by far (26) than any other developed country with the economy outperforming the OECD average.

I wanted to document what it’s like to live in a country where the person in charge was a woman who knew what she was doing. Unfortunately, New Zealand doesn’t count “wordsmith” as essential work, so I headed for the Isle of Man, where the man in charge had achieved similar results. The country, like New Zealand, had used its island status to eliminate Covid, allowing citizens to avoid prolonged lockdowns and live relatively normal lives.

Within weeks, I was running around the island bribing pharmacists (unsuccessfully) for LFTs. The single mother of a disabled child needed them because her other child caught Covid and she was too frightened to go out. She emailed me, a stranger she heard on the radio, because she didn’t know how to live with a virus capable of killing her child.

What went wrong? In June, Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, Health Minister, David Ashford and the Council of Ministers (CoMin), opened the borders too soon and in an inexplicable act of self harm, unleashed Delta, a highly transmissible, vaccine escaping variant, onto a Covid free island. Why? The economy, stupid. Except, by July, local businesses surveyed by the Chamber of Commerce reported an 80% reduction in income compared to the same time last year. Some described that period as 'the worst they've experienced during the pandemic'.

With no mitigations in place, Covid spread like wildfire collapsing the test and trace system. Hundreds were in isolation. Mr Ashford’s solution? Scrap isolation, which accelerated spread. The health system was hit with bed shortages, visitor restrictions and cancelled operations.

Why would the men in charge sabotage their own legacy?

Minutes from a Public Accounts Committee meeting published in August answered that question: It wasn’t their legacy. The committee took evidence from the Island’s Medical Director, turned reluctant whistle-blower, Dr Rosalind Ranson. She testified that Howard Quayle, David Ashford and Director of Public Health, Dr Ewart, were wedded to following UK strategy in March. Dr Ranson described her battle to adopt an island specific approach, a task reportedly thwarted by the Department for Health and Social Care’s CEO, Kathryn Magson who allegedly forbade Dr Ranson from liaising directly with ministers. Ms Magson gave medical briefings to the Council of Ministers (CoMin) herself, despite being unqualified (medically) to do so.  

 Newly appointed, Dr Ranson set up a Clinical Advisory Group with her top medics and assessed the risks posed by Covid, producing systems and protocols underpinned by clinical modelling. Based on that data, Dr Ranson identified the need to build on-island oxygen capability, requisitioning private beds and procuring fit for purpose PPE, achievements that Mr Quayle recently took credit for in UK media interviews. He also boasts about the island’s world-class test and trace system which was established from scratch by Island genomicist, Dr Rachel Glover, who was rewarded by being side-lined.

It’s noteworthy that the women who masterminded one of the world’s most successful pandemic responses have been ostracised by men who unashamedly claim their accomplishments as their own.

Based on her modelling, Dr Ranson knew that if the island blindly followed UK policy, which on 13th March involved not testing, the island’s one hospital would become overwhelmed. At that point Dr Ranson first advised Minister Ashford and Ms Magson to close the borders. On 16 March, Dr Ranson prepared a presentation for the Council of Ministers (CoMin) which she sent to Ms Magson to communicate, stressing the need for restrictions.

On 24 March, when asked at a presser why he hadn’t locked down, Mr Quayle replied, “We take advice from our medical experts”. Concerned, Dr Ranson asked Ms Magson if she had relayed her advice to Mr Quayle. She didn’t reply. That question must be answered but notwithstanding that, why didn’t Mr Quayle, Mr Ashford or CoMin solicit the advice of the highly qualified medical director directly? With the exception of Julie Edge (who was one of only 5 MHKs with the integrity & courage to vote against unmitigated border opening), why aren't MHKs clamouring for an investigation into this?

 On 25th March, Dr Ranson sent Ms Magson an email entitled ‘Lockdown now’. In it she urged Ms Magson to communicate the medical group’s advice: “lockdown in the strongest possible terms.’ Mr Quayle eventually locked down on March 27th. Had he acted sooner, avoidable deaths might have been averted.

 In January, Ms Magson informed Dr Ranson that the Manx government was following UK policy. The systems that Dr Ranson established were reportedly dismantled. Since then, ministers have taken Dr Ewart’s advice which appears to endorse the UK's reckless trajectory.

Before the borders opened, the average positivity rate was circa 0.31% of tests. The 3 day average now is around 11.43% despite significantly reduced testing and in mid-late July, the island had the highest incidence of Covid worldwide. Last week, Covid outbreaks occurred in a care home having previously loosened visitor restrictions. The “dodgy” dashboard numbers don’t tally, but piecing together information from various sources, an estimated 20 people have died from Covid since borders opened.

David Ashford suggested I represent the views of the Great Barrington Group (GBD): for “balance”. That’s like giving equal weight to climate change deniers when writing about global warming. It implies there’s no scientific consensus. There is. The GBD is a fringe group that has lobbied for “unscientific”, “unethical”, herd immunity through mass infection. The risk that COVID poses is not a matter of opinion, it’s a scientific fact.

 Anti-Vaxxers objected to my criticism of David Ashford and targeted me relentlessly with racist and misogynistic abuse. When one messaged, “I know where you live”, I knew he probably did, so on a misty Manx morning, I took the boat and left the beautiful island, tragically marred by political ineptitude and gross negligence.

 Thursday’s elections provide Manx citizens the chance to give self-aggrandising incompetent men their marching orders and to put the women who know what they’re doing in charge. Every vote counts. Aigh vie caarjyn

Monday, 6 September 2021

One day, our children will ask what we did to prevent them from being exposed to Covid

My article in today's Indo. Please share, wherever you live in the world, with #wedonotconsent & tag relevant ministers & agencies.

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/one-day-our-children-will-ask-what-we-did-to-prevent-them-being-exposed-to-covid-40820869.html

".....Delta is doubly transmissible with high vaccine escape and waning immunity and has raised the bar to achieving population immunity. Uncontrolled global transmission facilitated the emergence of the Delta variant, uncontrolled domestic borders expedited its importation to our shores and uncontrolled community transmission has seen Ireland’s incidence rise to the highest in the EU. The government is responsible for putting us in this perilous position just when our unvaccinated children return to schools which, amidst such high community transmission and negligible mitigations, cannot credibly be deemed safe.

Covid related absences doubled in a week after schools opened in Scotland with Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, admitting, “There’s no doubt that pupils and staff returning to school over the past fortnight had contributed to an "unprecedented" number of cases”.

Instead of mitigating against a similar scenario here, Micheál Martin, with NPHET as cheerleaders, are already lining up the fall guys: Parents"

"....If the government continues to expose our children to harm, it’s our job to protect them.  Unless parents are prepared to say, “We do not consent” to exposing our children to Covid infection at school which could saddle them with long term disability, congenital disorders, organ failure and cognitive deficiency, our consent will be presumed tacit”.

One day, our children will ask what we did to prevent them being exposed to infection when masks and inexpensive HEPA filtration systems could have prevented them from getting sick. Sending our under twelves to school with masks or chipping in for air filters are viable options. Deferential acquiescence is not".


Thursday, 15 July 2021

Isle of Man Covid Strategy: Mitigation or Herd Immunity by Mass infection?

My article in today's Manx Independent
Our immunosuppressed & children are guinea pigs in government's "dangerous experiment".



Word version👇

The UK’s plan to ditch restrictions, including mandatory face masks and social distancing, exposing citizens to mass infection, was described by the WHO’s Dr Mike Ryan as “moral emptiness and epidemiological stupidity”.

Over 1,000 internationally renowned scientists published a letter in The Lancet admonishing the policy as “A dangerous unethical experiment”. Ireland’s Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, commented, "I certainly don't want to be presiding over something that says it's okay for young people to get Covid, it's not actually”.

On Tuesday, per head of population, IOM reported two thirds as many new Covid cases as the UK and three times as many as Ireland. In response to my article in Saturday’s Irish Independent, incredulous readers commented, “How did the Isle of Man go from safe haven to plague island so quickly”?

I’ve been reporting on International responses to the pandemic for 16 months. No jurisdiction, except the Isle of Man, has ever knowingly imported Covid in order for its citizens to “learn to live with it”. It’s all the more incomprehensible given the island had survived most of the pandemic living without Covid and all the restrictions necessitated by an infectious disease ripping through communities.

Just as the vaccination programme was gaining momentum, in an act of inexplicable self-harm, instead of waiting a few weeks, the Manx government imported the delta variant, jeopardising lives and livelihoods just as vaccines may be waning in our vulnerable.

Not only was Covid actively imported on island by the government, it did so without putting sufficient public health measures in place to protect the vulnerable and unvaccinated population. Unsurprisingly, delta now has the island in its grip. The educational and business disruptions, the cancelled operations, lost incomes and Long Covid that will ensue were not inevitable. They, and any resulting deaths, were entirely avoidable.

On 7 June, I wrote to Education Minister, Dr Allinson, asking“ Do you not think that deferring border opening until children break up for the summer is the safest  way of ensuring our children  are not unnecessarily exposed to harm associated with getting Covid and Long Covid in the high risk classroom environment? He did not reply to that. I removed my child from school informing Dr Allinson that I do not consent to him being subject to an “unethical, dangerous experiment” involving infection at school.

 The government claims to have a mitigation strategy which implies the existence of masks, distancing and work from home directions, for example. Not only are these not mandated, they are not encouraged and there’s no apparent role modelling of these behaviours amongst political leaders.

The government’s messaging/catchphrases, such as “Numbers don’t matter” and “we must live with Covid,” without mitigations and financial isolation support says, this is not serious, it’s safe to carry on as normal sending children to school, socialising indoors. If it wasn’t safe, the government would put mitigations in place, right? By saying “live with it” and “numbers don’t matter”, the government is lulling citizens into a false sense of security, implying that getting infected is fine. It’s not.

 Numbers DO matter because as more people get infected, hospitalisations will follow and with that, as we’ve seen elsewhere, the likelihood of deaths. How many avoidable deaths does the Chief Minister deem acceptable?  Increased infections also provide fertile ground for the emergence of new, potentially more dangerous, vaccine escaping variants, which would be catastrophic.

On Monday, BMJ columnists, Dr Helen Salisbury, explained the difference between achieving herd immunity by infection (unsafe, unethical, unscientific) and by population vaccination (safe, ethical, scientific). She described the UK’s plan of herd immunity through infection as “criminal”.

If herd immunity by mass infection is not the IOM government’s intent, in order to credibly claim a strategy of mitigation, it needs to urgently introduce actual mitigations, not least to protect the immunosuppressed and children from the now raging spread of what the WHO describes as a “deadly disease”. Basic public health mitigations include (but not limited to): Mandatory masks in indoor spaces and public transport, social distancing, financial support for isolating workers, work from home orders, installing ventilation in workplaces and schools, vaccinating children 12-16 years (as is already happening elsewhere in the world).

The government’s downplaying of the threat posed by Long Covid to the nation’s health and economy is concerning, particularly given children are particularly at risk. “This is not a benign virus,” Professor Stephen Griffin, a virologist at Univeristy of Leeds said. “We know that around eight or nine percent of hospitalisations are children at the moment.” We do not fully understand the long term implications of severe disease in children or the impacts of Long Covid and there have already been reports of neurological damage and damage to the heart and lungs, even in very mild cases.

10pc to 20pc of young people with Covid experience Long Covid, lasting many months. The UK’s Office for National Statistics reported that at least 13,000 children aged two to 11 and 20,000 aged 12 to 16 have suffered Long Covid. Contrary to Dr Ewarts astonishing claim recently that the risks posed by Covid to children were “vanishingly” low, the evidence raises sufficient doubts about longer term effects on children to NOT say the risks to them are extremely low.

 

Having imported a highly infectious disease, the IOM government has abdicated all responsibility by instructing us to “learn to live with it”. Failing to put mitigations in place to protect the most vulnerable, the government then came up with another catchphrase: “personal responsibility”. Public-health is about preventing sickness in entire populations. Infectious diseases are always collective problems because they are…infectious. An individual’s choice not to wear masks or distance, has widespread implications. One infected person can seed an entire continent of cases. The odds of any of us becoming ill depend on the choices of those around us.

The immunosuppressed, unvaccinated children and essential workers rely on the government to ensure our schools, workplaces and public transport are safe. Anything short of that constitutes moral emptiness and epidemiological stupidity.



 

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Parent's should not be forced to choose between our children's education and their safety

 My article in today's Irish Independent👇

As parents, we must not settle for hospitalisations & deaths as the only valid metrics in this pandemic. Long Covid threatens to saddle a generation of children with chronic, disabling illness for years to come. In 10 years time our children will ask us what we did to protect them. They have no voice, no vote, no agency. We must speak up on their behalf 💓

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/we-shouldnt-be-forced-to-choose-between-school-and-child-safety-40635461.html

Word version 👇: 

“I’m skared of going to school”. Meet Aoife (not her real name) who contacted me after reading an article I wrote invoking Jaws to describe school safety. Until schools are safe, I pledged last August, “My child’s not getting back in the water”.

Aoife is 13 and was shown the article by a teacher months after it was written, as “proof” that her safety concerns were justified. Her anxiety, which manifested as school refusal and self-harm, was dismissed as “nonsense” by a priest, which made her doubt her sanity. Relief at being told by her GP that he’d seen “an explosion” of pandemic related anxiety in children (i.e. “I’m normal”) was dashed on realising the waiting list to see a psychologist was over a year. Clocking my background as a therapist, Aoife messaged me for help.

The contempt with which children have been treated throughout this pandemic reminds me of The West Wing scene where Director of Communications, Toby Zeigler, is confronted by a teenager for snubbing him. “In society we’re meaningless because we’re powerless” he railed, “No risk in offending us, we don’t exist”.

School closures (a feature of “living with Covid”), meant abuse and neglect went unnoticed forcing some children to call the gardaí. Pause for a moment and think how frightened and courageous a child must be to dial 999 only to hear an automated message promising a call back that never comes.

The recent Ombudsman for Children’s report, “A childhood paused”, showed that 100% of children who contacted them cited the impact of the pandemic on their mental health. The more socially disadvantaged and medically vulnerable, the harsher the impact. The highest number of complaints, 49%, were about education, describing 2020 as a “devastating year for children”.

Two months after emerging from a lockdown prolonged by importing the Alpha variant from Britain, the Delta variant, which is 60% more transmissible with higher vaccine escape, is on our shores. Public Health England data shows that, with increasing numbers of adults vaccinated, this variant is targeting unvaccinated youngsters. We also know that double vaxxed people can catch and transmit coronavirus and that vaccines may wane within months against this variant. This has significant implications for international travel, indoor socialising and the safe reopening of schools in September.

Unable to return our child to school last September, we weren’t offered any alternatives. Some teachers kindly kept us in the loop but others just didn’t have the time. Joy at being able to participate in remote learning with classmates in January, descended into dismay. Teachers did their best, but being in ear shot of live classes, it was apparent that many children struggled to cope. Some were sharing laptops and bandwidth with multiple siblings and missed classes. One child was so overwhelmed, she broke down in tears. The teacher offered reassurance to the faceless child, but her voice too faltered. The strain on everyone was palpable.

Instead of using months of lockdown to install ventilation, the government herded children back into unsafe, unventilated, overcrowded classrooms. Desperate to get my son back to school safely and seeing no prospect of that happening at home, we loaded up the car and came to the Isle of Man, whose elimination strategy meant life continued as normal for most of the pandemic.

As luck would have it, the Manx government recently announced they were shifting to a “living with Covid” non-strategy. Given there were zero cases at the time, they fast tracked the Delta variant’s arrival so that we could all learn to live with it. Schools are now several teachers down with pupils and parents isolating. Businesses that were previously open and thriving are shut because infected visitors ambled through their doors. Having 3 feet (see flag) doesn’t mean shooting yourself in one of them is advisable.

Aoife’s parents don’t have the luxury of upping sticks. They’re both (un)employed in hospitality, which has been decimated by the government’s choice to put the aviation industry before SMEs; the lifeblood of our communities and economy. Last year, with less than 10 cases a day, we were living without Covid. Rather than opening pubs and eateries, we opened borders and imported new variants instead.

A year on, “Living with Covid” has killed 5,000 Irish citizens and condemned the rest to a purgatorial existence where deprivation of human and social contact has become a way of life.

Hospitalisations and deaths cannot be the only metrics in operation “Saving Summer”. Nphet warned that actions resulting in higher cases now, jeopardise the safe reopening of schools. We know that children have suffered psychological and physical harm as a result of both school closures and attending unsafe schools.

UK data indicates that around 7,000 children suffer with Long Covid beyond 12 months. Dr Deepti Gurdasani, epidemiologist at the University of London warned: “Exposing children to a novel virus that has long-term impacts, is completely unethical”.

Parents should not be forced to choose between their child’s education and their safety.

For those unmoved by children being potentially saddled with a chronic, debilitating illness for years to come, gifting Covid unvaccinated, compliant hosts has other consequences. Dr Stephen Griffin, virologist and associate professor at the University of Leeds warned, “We can’t ignore children in vaccination campaigns. If we do, we could end up in a cycle of variants.”

Sunday’s announced plan to vaccinate 12-15 year olds, whilst welcome, was conditional on NIAC’s long awaited recommendation. For schools to open safely in September, as a minimum, we need eligible children to be vaccinated and ventilation systems installed in all classrooms.

Nelson Mandela said, “The true character of society is revealed in how it treats its children”. Instead of gaslighting children like Aoife (now fully recovered) for raising safety concerns, we should join them in holding this government to account.


Friday, 28 May 2021

Isle of Man snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with Delta variant

13 year old: Why do you have to criticise the government of every country we live in?

Me: That's my job

13 year old: Then change your job

Having spent 13 intense months covering the Irish government's catastrophic mishandling of the pandemic whilst simultaneously homeschooling, grieving & fielding online abuse, I came to the Isle of Man for a quieter life. 

How it's going so far👇

"Why risk it? Journalist's fear Delta Variant Will Cause Significant Outbreak". Interview here👇

https://www.manxradio.com/news/isle-of-man-news/why-risk-it-journalists-fear-indian-variant-will-cause-significant-outbreak/

In his interview this morning, Health Minister, David Ashford, told listeners that the data relating to the increased transmissibility of the so called Indian variant has changed. What he didn't mention is that Public Health England increased it from circa 50% on Saturday to circa 66% on 26 May 👇

https://twitter.com/Dr_D_Robertson/status/1398169118097002496



Friday, 12 March 2021

The feminist movement must include all women - not just the white middle class ones

 My article in today's Indo👇




https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/the-struggle-for-equality-must-include-all-women-not-just-white-middle-class-ones-40187011.html

Exerpt: A few years ago, I was disinvited from speaking at an International Women’s Day (IWD) corporate event when the organiser belatedly realised an article I wrote (which led to the booking) was satirical. It was called, ‘Women should embrace inequality, not fight it’.

Organiser: “So… you didn’t mean it when you wrote that we should prepare our daughters for working life by giving them less pocket money than our sons…?”


Me: “WTF?”


Another time, I was invited to talk about female empowerment at a women-only event. I suggested tackling female disempowerment at source instead by having a men-only workshop for the 21-member entirely male board.


Me: “Women don’t need assertiveness workshops, we need equal pay, equal rights and equal representation at the top table.”


Organiser: “Sorry, wrong number.”


More recently, I declined an invitation to speak at an IWD event because all six panel members were privileged white women. I suggested they give my place to a friend who fled persecution in Sudan and is now a kick-ass (very cool) doctor. I was replaced by... a privileged white woman.


Perusing the week-long IWD events, I couldn’t help noticing the glaringly absent voices. One panel had 16 women – all of whom were white. ‘Choose to challenge’ was this year’s IWD theme and some marginalised women chose to challenge the women’s movement itself.


When Mincéir Beoir Rosemarie Maughan called out the exclusion of Traveller women from IWD panels, she was offered a last-minute slot resulting from a settled woman cancelling. She declined, instead joining other Traveller women on the Sligo Traveller Group forum where she expressed frustration at being excluded by female allies, adding: “We deserve more than crumbs from other people’s plates.”


Catherine Coffey O’Brien talked about her mother being picked up by the “cruelty man” (agents of the State that took Traveller children from their families and put them into institutions). Three other families were seized the same day, all of whom were first cousins, and all were split up and “thrown like leaves in the wind”. They never came back together as a family and “our clan system”, Catherine said, “was destroyed”.


Catherine, a Bessborough survivor, also expressed irritation that Traveller and other marginalised women’s voices were ignored by the Mother and Baby Home Commission. “They never listened. We were not heard.”


If I could only challenge one act of state-sponsored misogyny this year it would be the egregious Mother and Baby Homes Report. An official document containing evidence of human rights abuses perpetrated against women and babies, yet describing them as “lobbyists” while dismissing, distorting and deleting their testimonies, cannot be accepted as a legitimate historical record.


Bereft of moral and legal integrity, the process exposed survivors to retraumatisation, was underpinned by misogynistic preconceptions and enabled by silence – past and present.


Annette McKay, whose testimony documenting her mother’s ordeal in Tuam was returned to her in tick-box form, vowed to continue the fight after lockdown. “Bring a shovel,” she tweeted, “we are burying their report and digging up the truth.” I've got my shovel.

It references an earlier article, "Women should embrace equality, not fight it". Health warning: contains satire👇

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/women-need-to-embrace-inequality-not-fight-it-8655655.html

Saturday, 6 February 2021

By failing to implement mandatory quarantine, our government has put airline profits before the protection of its people

My article in today's Indo👇

https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/cabinets-contradictory-quarantine-briefs-are-taking-their-toll-and-prolonging-purgatory-40054292.html

Main points:

..."On Wednesday, Micheál Martin invoked three reasons for not implementing mandatory hotel quarantine, none of which made any sense. Firstly, airline litigation. Ryanair did challenge the government’s advice for people returning from countries not on the designated green list to self-isolate for 14 days and objected to advice against non-essential travel. Ryanair lost the case but was gifted the concession anyway. In September, Leo Varadkar removed the deterrent of “non-essential” travel relating to the risible “green list” and self-isolation remains unenforced. Why did Martin cite defeated litigation as an impediment to quarantine?

 Secondly, the Taoiseach claimed “compelling legal reasons” against hotel quarantine which directly contradicts Stephen Donnelly’s announcement in July that the Attorney General deemed it wasn’t illegal. Yet Donnelly still resisted, claiming the WHO gave him permission not to implement quarantine, which was surprising because that contradicted the WHO’s official advice which states: "Quarantine is included within the legal framework of the international health regulations (2005)." Further: "Member states have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to legislate and to implement legislation in pursuit of their health policies, even if this involves the restriction of movement of individuals".

 "Thirdly, Micheál Martin cited the curtailment of personal liberties. The European Convention on Human Rights provides lawful exception to this right (Article 5) to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Equally, under Article 2 (the right to life), the government has a duty to implement measures to safeguard lives. Where there is a known risk to life, the state must take protective steps to preserve life. Allowing the few to undertake non-essential travel without mandatory quarantine, I would argue, poses a disproportionate risk, endangering the lives of the whole population.

Whether Martin’s contradictory quarantine messaging is down to deliberate ambiguity or incompetence, it’s costing lives".

"Stephen Donnelly’s current proposal to allow returning passengers to isolate in households with non-travellers, thus defeating the point of quarantine falls miserably short of the mark. By the way, as minister for Transport, why isn’t Eamon Ryan dealing with quarantine?

It’ll be weeks before the woefully inadequate quarantine legislation is passed, exposing us to the importation of mutating variants which risk compromising the efficacy of some vaccines.

Nick Cammack, who leads the Covid-19 therapeutics accelerator at Wellcome warned that with the coronavirus mutating rapidly, he doesn’t expect any of the current drugs to be effective for long. “I think it’s pretty clear, we’ve seen South Africa, UK and Brazil variants, there will be others.

 Nicola Sturgeon recognises the danger posed by new variants and indicated her intention to  deviate from UK policy and introduce 'managed quarantine' for all arrivals to safeguard her citizens. Germany has banned travel from 5 “high risk” countries, including Ireland in order to protect the German population.”


With vaccination rollout already stymied by Stephen Donnelly’s ineptitude, whether Michael O’Leary likes it or not, we’ll be staycationing again this summer. If we close our borders to all but essential travel now and aim for zero-covid, we can open everything else up and party like it’s 2019. Polls consistently show that 90% of people want mandatory hotel quarantine so it’s time our government put the protection of its people before the airline industry’s profits.

The woman on the beach didn’t mind holidaying in Ireland. She just needed to feel safe, we all do. It’s time to put an end to this purgatory".