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Shrugging off the lockdown… May 29, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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There are two columns today in the IT demanding that the shut-down be eased faster – indeed in some ways reading them you’d wonder if they’re not actually demanding that the shut-down be eased altogether. I find it interesting that there’s been not one columnist this week that I’m aware of suggesting that the current route is the correct one. Someone I mentioned this too rather cynically suggested that given the social base and commercial base of the media perhaps that’s no surprise. Perhaps it isn’t.

Anyhow, so we get one columnist arguing that:

Given the scale of economic carnage and human misery coming over the hill, every arm of the State should be on a war footing to save small businesses. Instead, those in tourism and retail are left exposed on the front line as cannon fodder, as Ireland pursues an economically-reckless scientific experiment to throttle a virus that other European countries are learning to keep at bay.

Well how about saving lives?

It gets ever more bombastic as it goes. And offers some dubious analysis:

The obedient public was originally told it must endure temporary lockdown to flatten the curve, but now it is being told to flatten small retail and tourism too with an anvil of caution. That is not how lockdown was sold.

As noted yesterday, in the speech announcing the lock-down the Taoiseach was clear this was about saving lives. And there’s some offensive stuff too:

The Government is getting comfortable with a welfare mentality in its relationship with the retail and hospitality sectors. Keep them all locked down until the doctors are happy and feed SMEs the methadone of cheap loans and grants.

But it’s the tilt into rhetoric that is most irritating (to me at least):

There will be no work for the young unless we get a grip and tackle this draining of our national self-confidence. For that is what has happened here.

The State says its research shows people want a very slow lockdown unwinding. But that is not a measure of their desires. It is a measure of their fear. All the while, the goalposts are shifted.

That’s right, blame people for an entirely rational response to a viral pandemic and paint it as ‘fear’ and lack of ‘self-confidence’. Many here have long been critical of the boosterism of business rhetoric. Here we see it’s logical conclusion. It’s just self-confidence that is lacking if people don’t feel something is safe – all the while as he calls for measures to ensure a reasonable level of safety are unwound faster than the best medical advice.

In all of this no mention of workers health or safety. It just is a given that that is irrelevant, that there’s risk and one has to live with it. No doubt self-confidence will keep people well.

Then we have that well known viral expert Stephen Collins writing:

TDs need to start behaving sensibly in their own House as a first step towards leading society back to some kind of normality so that businesses, schools and shops can open with a realistic set of rules. For instance, there is no good reason why primary schools should not start to reopen on a phased basis in June.
Young children are in no danger from Covid-19 and the evidence is that they do not pass it on either. The fact that the Irish National Teachers Organisation has been raising objections to the schools going back in September shows how the level of fear about Covid-19 has got out of control.

The statement about young children is simply not correct. More correct would be to say that we do not know fully what the impacts are, that as it stands young children appear to get in general a lower intensity infection but we cannot yet be certain about their ability to transmit it to adults (there’s a study out today that would appear to suggest that that level of transmission is low, but one would have to wonder about how robust it is on the numbers). I’ve linked to studies that suggest that children are well able to pass it on to adults. For Collins to raise the INTO’s very valid concerns as if they are paranoid is predictable but quite remarkable. For him the issue of workers health isn’t an issue at all. He is happy to use dubious, or misleading, statements to ignore that entirely.

There’s more, but that’ll do to give a taste. This from the UK offers a reasoned analysis why some in education are much much more cautious about reopening too rapidly.

Basic questions we’ve asked the government have been interpreted as nothing short of treason. Questions like, what is the scientific rationale for a 1 June return date? Are large groups of children all in one place likely to spread Covid-19 and cause a second spike? It is not unreasonable to expect the government to have these answers, and to share them.

And:

Confidence that any adjustments would not risk a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS is one of the qualifying measures. And at first reading, the Sage information offers little assurance on this issue because the evidence around the likely impact of a return to school is unclear. Furthermore, the separate Independent Sage group report says that new modelling shows the risk of infection would be halved if children returned to school two weeks later than ministers currently propose.

And let’s keep in mind that we have quite literally only just eased the first phase of restrictions and do not yet know precisely what the effect of that easing is.

Meanwhile there’s this inconvenient fact. I was talking to a principal only last week who told me he had had numerous calls from parents unwilling to send children back until they felt matters were safe. They, like the last quote want some guidance on that but as the principal noted it is their constitutional right to keep children out of school.

But the columnists above appear to assume that if schools or other institutions or business enterprises are opened people will go to them (and again, notable that they are the only voices in the IT on this. Not one article in the opinion pages this week presenting the medical view).

Another piece from today suggests that is far from the case.

Many crèches and childcare facilities will go out of business or choose not to reopen unless the Government agrees a package of financial supports, according to a body representing private sector childcare providers.

Seas Suas says privately owned and operated childcare providers employ 18,000 staff and care for more than 144,000 children.

In its new post-lockdown strategy document entitled “Reopen Safely, Recover Sustainably”, Seas Suas anticipates that even if some facilities can open on 29 June, as few as 20% of children will actually return due to continuing concerns among parents.

It seems likely that people are more cautious than some in the media assume. They’ll weight the situation up and come to their own ccnclusions. September, perhaps a little earlier seems sensible as we gather in facts and see about how the virus has been contained (notable too how none of these boosters appear to engage with a second wave of infections. I guess that’s soooo April).

And all the empty exhortations that self-confidence is lacking or that there’s no risk at all won’t dent that reality.

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