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Urgent Challenge To NPHET’’s Recommendation On Face Masks For Children
national | health / disability issues | feature Tuesday November 30, 2021 23:54 by Lawyers For Justice Ireland
The government has gone rogue and the people have lost their common sense
Update: Finally as of Monday Feb 28th the mask mandate is now gone from all shops, schools, pubs, restaurants, hotels and all settings except medical establishments.
Once again the country is plunging itself into absurdities and diving deeper into insanity for the government is no less than bringing in mandates for healthy children to wear masks all day long in school. It is the most insane measure yet, and it so wrong on so many fronts. The worst part is that many parents will follow these guidelines which is both physically and mentally damaging to their own kids, but the ground work has already been put in to allow this for we have had 22 months of endless 24x7 fear mongering, lies and deceit from the government and media over the pandemic that never was for it was all best on lying by statistics.
When you look into the science on masks there is nothing there to justify any of this muzzling. You can find those links in the box below
Here is the advice from Lawyers For Justice along with a sample letter to use to lobby your TD or other representatives.
URGENT CHALLENGE TO NPHET’S RECOMMENDATION ON FACE MASKS FOR CHILDREN
We have been overwhelmed with messages and emails about NPHET’s recommendation to lower the age requirement for children to wear face masks to 9 years old. We have drafted a submission to forward to Minister Foley, INTO, the National Parents Council, the Children’s Ombudsman and HIQA.
NPHET made this recommendation WITHOUT instructing HIQA’s Expert Advisory Group to do a review on reducing the minimum age requirement for wearing face masks. HIQA have been instructed to do a review on each and every occasion and indeed published three reports this year alone on 4th March 14th April and 20th September. On every occasion HIQA DID NOT recommend a reduction of age. This begs the question: why were HIQA bypassed on this occasion? We are of the opinion that NPHET’s recommendation raises serious concerns about the lack of a Risk Assessment on the necessity and proportionality of this measures taking into account the risk of harm. There has also been no consultation with parents/teachers and children about this measure.
If you have any queries PM us or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Addresses to send submission:
Dear Minister Foley
Urgent – NPHET’s Face Mask Recommendation
(Insert Child/ren’s name, date of birth and school)
I am writing to place on record my deep concern to NHPET’s recommendation that ‘all children over 9 wear masks in schools, shops and on public transport’ (Independent.ie 26th November).
At the outset I wish to place on record that I find it alarming that NPHET’s recommendations were made without a Risk Assessment by HIQA’s Expert Advisory Group on the necessity and proportionality of this measure and in the absence of a national survey of teachers/parents and children’s attitudes to such a policy. I have forwarded a copy of this submission to the Children's Ombudsman, HIQA, INTO and the National Parents Council.
The reason why NPHET made this recommendation without firstly instructing HIQA’s Expert Advisory Group to conduct a review on reducing the minimum age requirement for wearing face masks has not been made clear to the public. Indeed, HIQA were instructed to conduct a review on each and every previous occasion. HIQA this year alone carried out three reviews and published reports on 4th March, 14th April and 20th September and on each time did not recommend a reduction to the minimum age requirement for wearing face masks.
I would therefore ask you to cite the precise reason as to why HIQA have not been instructed to conduct such a Risk Assessment on this occasion. I note that the Covid-19 Evidence Synthesis team within the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Directorate that HIQA conducts evidence synthesis to inform national strategic decision making at the request of NPHET to ensure access to the best available evidence relevant to COVID-19 to inform decision-making. In light of HIQA’s mandate, it is therefore extremely puzzling why they have been side lined in this instance.
I trust you will be aware of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ‘Advice for the use of face masks for children in the community in the context of COVID-19’ states that there is a multitude of issues that should be addressed when making a decision to use face masks for children aged 6-11 including the ability of the child to safely and appropriately use a mask, access to laundering and replacement of masks in school settings, adequate adult supervision and instructions to the child on how to put on, take off and safely wear masks and the potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development in consultation with teachers and parents/caregivers and and/or medical providers. As far back as July 2008 the WHO issued a statement titled ‘Children Are Not Little Adults’ which emphasised that any national policies regarding children must consider their dynamic physiology.
Any reduction in the minimum age of the face mask requirement should therefore consider issues such as potential social, pedagogical, educational, emotional, psychological, and physical harm. This can only be done through a detailed Risk Assessment and consultation with parents/teachers and children on a national basis.
One must also question whether NPHET have the appropriate qualifications and expertise to make such a recommendation that children of this age group wear face masks. It is noteworthy that the membership of NPHET does not appear to include any medical or other professionals that primarily specialise in children. HIQA’s Expert Advisory Group, on the other hand, has several such professionals, including two Consultant Paediatricians. It is also striking the huge imbalance of membership between NPHET and HIQA’s Expert Advisory Group with the former consisting of 8 medical professionals and the latter having 37. No doubt you will agree that when such fundamental decisions are being made with regards to the welfare of children it is important that those entrusted have a high level of expertise and breadth of experience in this field.
I wish to remind the Minister that the Department of Education is a statutory body with statutory functions under the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924. The Department must ensure that administrative policies implemented do not contravene underpinning legislation. This includes the implementation of public health mitigation measures as enshrined in Article 3 (1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989) of which Ireland is a signatory:
‘In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration’
In the absence of a published Risk Assessment and consultation with parents/teachers and children it is difficult to see how NPHET’s recommendation are in the best interests of the child. I refer to Page 17 of HIQA’s Advice of 14th April 2021 that states:
‘It was recognised that there is a lack of national data on parents’ and children’s attitudes and concerns regarding school mitigation measures. It was agreed that such data should be collected and considered when developing policy”.
Many may question whether NPHET’s decision making has been unduly influenced by the trade union movement, specifically INTO. Indeed, INTO have consistently used the media as a platform to push for the face mask policy to be extended to primary schools. John Boyle even went so far this week as to ‘encourage’ children of primary school age to wear face masks. What is so worrying about such actions are that, not only is John Boyle not professionally qualified to make such a recommendation, but that this was published in the media only days before NPHET’s decision.
Given that the British Medical Journal has reported that teachers are at no more risk of being hospitalised of Covid-19 or suffering severe illness than any other working-age adults (Irish Times, 2nd September 2021), it is concerning that a trade union representing teachers’ interests such as INTO appear not to be fully cognisant that the central tenet of Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2017 is that the welfare of the child is paramount.
What is also concerning is that NPHET has not published any detailed Rationale for this recommendation to show that it is necessary, proportionate or grounded in scientific evidence nor have they demonstrated that they considered the potential harm to children.
I refer to Page 11 of HIQA’s Advice dated 4th March 2021 which states:
‘Transmission within schools is best avoided through the use of layered mitigation measures. These include avoidance of attendance with symptoms of COVID-19, physical distancing within schools, on school grounds and when travelling to and from school, appropriate hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and increased ventilation of indoor spaces; no single measure is sufficient in isolation’
Page 18 of HIQA’s Advice dated 14th April 2021 states:
‘Based on the currently available evidence, the benefit of adding face masks to existing IPC measures for primary school children was considered to be small. There was a general consensus that the evidence was not sufficient to warrant any significant policy changes’.
Sweden has kept its schools open throughout with no face mask policy and data issued from the Public Health Agency demonstrates a low incidence rate (Ludvigsson, J.F et al The New England Journal of Medicine 6th January 2021). Over two million children returned to primary and post primary schools in Sweden on 19th August 2021 and there are no indications that the Delta variant has had any impact on this trajectory. Indeed, the majority of European countries do not have face mask policies in primary schools.
The Department of Education’s ‘COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe and sustainable operation of Primary and Special Schools dated 4th August 2021 at Page 20 states:
‘In childcare and educational settings, the implementation of mandatory face-covering usage is challenging, as it is known that children will have a lower tolerance and ability to use the face covering properly and use of face-coverings by teachers and staff caring for very young children may cause undue stress to the children’.
‘It is not recommended that children attending primary school wear face-coverings’
The ECDC Advice on Face Masks on 8th July 2021 states:
‘…. in school settings, implementing this measure is challenging, as children (<12 years) may have a lower tolerance to wearing masks for extended periods of time, and may fail to use the masks properly’.
At Page 19 of HIQA’s Advice dated 4th March 2021 it is stated:
‘There is concern regarding the potential harms with face mask use, for example, anxiety or negative impacts on the development of communication and language skills, particularly for younger children’.
The potential long term psychological, emotional, educational, pedagogical and social impact of face mask policies in schools are not yet know. Studies have indicated that the side effects of children wearing face masks at schools include impairing face recognition and face identification, verbal and non-verbal communication and blocking emotional signalling between teachers and students (Spitzer, M. Trends Neuroscience and Education published 11 August 2020, Department of Psychiatry, University of Ulm, Leimgrubenweg 12-14, D-89075 Ulm, Germany).
According to Dr Kang Lee Professor of Applied Psychology and Human Development at University of Toronto, it is not until children are around 14 years old that they fully develop facial recognition skills (Why a Mask is Not Just a Mask (17th April 2021; Global Mental Health Programs, Columbia University).
The National Library of Medicine published a study by Schwarz, S et al on 22nd February 2021 entitled ‘Corona child studies “Co-Ki” first results of a Germany wide register on mouth and nose covering (mask). This was the world’s first registry for recording the effects of wearing masks in children and a total of 20,353 parents took part entering data on 25,930 children. Of the respondents 68% of children complained of impairments caused by wearing a mask including irritability, headaches, difficulty concentrating, less happiness, reluctance to go to school, malaise, impaired learning, and drowsiness.
What is also troubling is that NPHET have made this recommendation at a time when children are facing a tsunami of mental health issues. Indeed, John Church, Chief Executive of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPC), has called for urgent intervention by the Government because Covid-19 measures have led to significant levels of isolation amongst children which has had a severe detrimental impact on their emotional welfare. Mr Church reported to the Oireachtas Watchdog Committee that there is a huge surge of children suffering from anxiety, self-harming and expressing suicidal thoughts (Independent.ie 20 October 2021).
Please note that if the face mask requirement is extended to 9 year olds, I will consult my solicitor on taking urgent action including Judicial Review to the High Court on the grounds that such a measure is not necessary or proportionate and that the Department of Education have failed in their statutory duty of care.